“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly. John 10:10
A recent issue of World Magazine recounted the story of Sam Kolden. He is a Wisconsin High-Schooler who has autism. From the eighth grade to his senior year Sam practiced and participated with the Menomonie Indians football team. On homecoming night this last October his years of perseverance and commitment paid off with a 66-yard touchdown play which none of the spectators, coaches, and players from either side will soon forget. Late in the fourth quarter when the Indians were leading 46-14, the Menomonie coach yelled over to the opposing coach with a request. Would the Superior Spartans, who were already soundly beaten, be willing to fulfill the dreams of a developmentally challenged young man? He asked the Spartan’s coach if they would allow Sam to catch a pass and be sure to not injure him by tackling him gently after he caught the ball. But the opposing coach, Bob DeMeyer, had a better idea: “Let’s let him score a touchdown, coach. That’s what it’s all about. So on the next play, Sam ran into the left flat, hauled in a short pass, and raced 66 yards past the futile tackling attempts of the Spartan players. The touchdown ignited a cheering frenzy throughout the stadium of fans from both teams appreciating a moment far grander than any common football contest. Sam’s father, watching from the sidelines, was deeply moved by this display of character and sportsmanship. Sam’s teammates who had known and played on the same team with him for years celebrated enthusiastically, while the opposing Spartans’ reaction was even more impressive. Once downtrodden from suffering their fifth straight loss, they now saw the game in a whole new light. One of them put it into perspective, calling the moment “the highlight of anybody’s life.
This act of kindness, compassion, and concern for the other stands out simply because it is not the expected behavior of man. We notice when behavior does not conform to man’s typical nature. Oh yes, as we have heard so often before, there are those who will describe such an event as proof that most people, if not all, are “basically good at heart. But any thoughtful observation of humanity puts the lie to such an idea quickly. At least it ought to. Even those in the football stadium who were so impressed in the moment would not necessarily be transformed by it. Within a day or two they might not show even their spouse the same compassion and concern displayed that night.
This is the first week of Advent, a season of the year with the glorious purpose of reminding us of our Savior’s Advent in history, and of His promised Advent ahead. St. Bernard (not the Swiss mountain dog, but the saint) in one of his Advent sermons contrasts the devoted disciple of Christ with those who pay no attention to the coming of the Savior. These are in no way aware that they even need a Savior! Consequently, they are unaware of His presence. Bernard develops in his Advent sermons the idea of the “three Advents of Jesus. The first and the last are obvious to us: Jesus’ incarnation and birth and Jesus’ return, His promised coming again. The first is that in which He comes to seek and to save that which was lost. The third is that in which He comes to take us to Himself. But what is this second, or “middle Advent of which Bernard spoke?
He describes it like this: every moment of time between the first and last Advent is a moment of judgment; that Christ is passing by and that we are judged by our awareness of His passing. If we join Him and travel with Him to the Kingdom, the judgment becomes for us salvation. But if we neglect Him and let Him go by, our neglect is our condemnation! The night last October in the Menomonie Football Stadium was just such a “middle Advent; Jesus was there and He gave those who witnessed and participated an opportunity to respond to His grace and be transformed by it. This “Sam Kolden story did not just happen as though man’s nature in itself would produce what took place. There are countless “middle Advents in each of our lives. Just as Jesus’ noticeable “visit in the stadium that night, so he passes by in each of our lives over and over again. Sometimes we notice His presence, while other times we may be completely oblivious. Meditating on the first and the last Advent of our Lord and Savior awakens us to His countless “middle visits where we are judged by our response to Him. Think about it. This is a season to do just that. But there may not be many more.
“Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay, close by me forever and love me I pray; bless all the dear children in thy holy care, and fit us for heaven to live with thee there.
(Last verse of the “Cradle Song attributed to Martin Luther, Away in a Manger”)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
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