My children and I gave our friend Kate a ride to the airport last month, just as Christmas was approaching. We talked about travel plans, what we loved about holidays with the family (and what we didn’t), what it was like to experience Christmas with a 3-year-old who finally knows it’s happening, and sooner or later, we ended up talking about Jesus.
But only after we started talking about Tim Tebow.
We’re not huge sports fans in our house (my son likes to yell “touchdown!” while watching baseball). But I know who Tim Tebow is. I get the basics.
He’s a young, first-round draft pick for the Denver Broncos that got a shot at their starting quarterback position this season.
He can scramble with the ball about as well as he can throw it, and his knack for close, comeback wins give him the appearance of an underdog — although I would be more of an underdog than he would. (Come on. Give me a shot.)
But it seems like Tim Tebow is getting a lot more attention for what he’s doing off of the field — or in the end zone — rather than his performance on it.
Tebow is someone who takes his faith very seriously, in a vocal and visible way. His views on abortion are well-known, and he connects them with his beliefs.
He drops to one knee and prays on “Monday Night Football.”
People have apparently started imitating his prayer posture and calling it “Tebowing.” (I’m still not sure why it isn’t called “praying.”) Some people think this behavior is inspirational. Some think it’s ridiculous.
I never thought it was ridiculous, per se, until I saw a video of the Broncos coming from behind to beat the Chicago Bears last month.
Tebow played the entire game with a microphone in his helmet, and the video paired his audio feed with some of the game’s highlights. Throughout the entire game, Tebow is positive, courteous to other players and seems to be really happy and thankful to be playing football.
Then, at the end of the fourth quarter, just as the Broncos are taking the field for one last-ditch effort to win the game, he starts singing. And not very well.
“Lord, I lift your name on high … you came from heaven to earth … . ”
I’m glad the guy loves Jesus. But I wish he had picked a cooler song. And it does seem like a ridiculous moment to be singing. (Disclaimer: The musical tastes of this writer do not necessarily represent those of the people who run this website. If you’d like suggestions for cooler songs that Tim Tebow could have sung, contact the author directly.)
All of this made me think of one of the gospel readings I heard last month during Advent.
Sing to the Lord
In the first chapter of Luke, Mary is visited by an angel, she’s given mind-blowing news, and she responds by talk-singing:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant (Luke 1:46-48).
Another ridiculous moment for singing.
In the face of an unexpected, incongruous and enormous spotlight, Mary redirects our attention off of her and says that her soul “magnifies the Lord.”
God is, of course, as big as God can get, but Mary’s desire, her reality, is for God to appear bigger — to visibly and vocally become bigger, through her lowly servitude, to those who see what she’s doing with her life and to those who tell her story.
Is Tim Tebow lowly? By our standards, no. By God’s standards, yes. And in God’s unexpected way, we can end up focusing on God through observing Tim Tebow’s words, choices and actions.
Whether you like Tim Tebow or not, his visible faith provides a jumping-off point for almost any person to talk about God.
This is the God who is revealed over and over again in unexpected ways. This is the God who will tell you an Advent story in January if you didn’t get it the first time.
After all, if God can work through an unwed teenage mother, then God just might be able to work through the fame that comes with professional sports.
Justin Rimbo lives in Arden Hills, Minn., with his wife, Angie, and their two children. On Sundays you can find Justin leading music for worship at Jacob’s Well in Minneapolis and Humble Walk Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn.