I remember exactly where I was that day. Standing in the 300 level of Century Link field next to my good friends, Daniel and Clint. The Green Bay Packers were playing the Seattle Seahawks and the replacement refs were officiating the game. It would be their last game employed by the NFL. In a game known to many as “The Fail Mary”, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks defeated the storied Packers in one of the craziest, strange, memorable, exciting, unbelievable games ever. People raced to televisions to try and see what really happened. Strangers met up in parking lots, stairwells, and bars to debate differing points of view.
The unpredictable had happened. The unbelievable was not yet believeable. And, years later, people still don’t believe or agree on exactly what happened that Monday night, under the stars, in a stadium in Seattle.
The most memorable moments in sports, according to Colin Cowherd (host of The Herd on ESPN Radio), happen when the moment is neither predictable nor believable. For this to be confirmed, all you have to do is think back to the moments you remember most in the world of sports. The big moments – you know them – the plays that stop time, causing you to question whether you are awake or dreaming.
These moments have been given titles – the Beast Quake, the Immaculate Reception, the Drive – or they are referred to simply by the matchup – Reggie Miller vs. the Knicks (the greatest 9 seconds in basketball I’ve ever seen), or Michael Jordan vs. the Utah Jazz (one of the most iconic freeze frames in sports history).
If you tried to predict it beforehand, you couldn’t. If you tried to believe it afterwards, it would be difficult.
You can watch people wandering around, mumbling, looking for people to listen to them. I don’t believe what I just saw. Did you see that? I saw it but I don’t believe it. How did that happen? I need to watch that again. My oh my…
Sometimes, like the late, great Jimmy V, they just wander around looking for a hug.
These moments are iconic and what makes them so special is their ability to be re-watched, replayed, and experienced all over again for what feels like the first time.
No matter how much you watch them, no matter how real you know they were, there remains a little piece of doubt that what you know is true is really true; that what happened really happened. Reality can be unbelievable.
Christmas, for me, seems similar.
I know it’s true – Well, I think it was. I know it happened – However…no, I’m pretty sure it happened. I know it’s real – it probably is real.
It sure has that impact, doesn’t it? God, coming down to earth as Jesus, to live amongst us. God, born in a manger, to a virgin named Mary and a man named Joseph. God, born to die for the sins of the world so that we all might be loved, forgiven, and saved. I hear the story every year around this time and I am equally amazed and confused at the same time. I think I need to hear it one more time. And then I need to hear it again.
This story, the story of Christmas, was predicted by prophets years before but let’s be honest, I don’t really think it was predictable. They spoke the word of God but often times what God says seems a little far fetched. Even when it happens, people don’t believe what they saw. Sure, they might for a second or two, a week, or even a couple of years, but eventually they forget and need a reminder. I know I do.
The events surrounding Christmas, like the iconic sports moments, have been given some great titles – the Virgin Birth, the Journey of the Magi, the Immaculate Conception – and some of the match ups tell a larger story – Jesus vs. King Herod or Jesus vs. the People of the Law (grace…we should get it one of these days).
As Christmas rolls around once again, I still don’t believe it. I mean, I do, but I don’t. I believe it, it’s just that, well, you know what I mean, right? It’s kind of unbelievable. I suppose this is where faith comes in.
It was quite the day that day, under the stars, in a manger in Bethlehem.
Perhaps you had to be there.
I bet you’d remember exactly where you were that day when you heard the news.