A couple of weeks into the college football season, head coach Nick Saban chided the students at the University of Alabama for not supporting the football team. Apparently there were too many empty seats in the stadium. Really? Students not attending the football game? Alabama must have a dull social life.

That’s the reward highlight of the week at college, going to the game. Plus, Alabama has a stellar record of winning football. They win! It’s not like most teams where you win a few, loose a bunch. Alabama wins. They win all the time. Why would students miss a game? Is it because victory looks too casual? Is it the moral position there is too much money in college football? Is it because you can get a better view of the game at home watching TV? Why would the Alabama students miss a game?

Whatever the students’ reasoning, coach Saban was not accepting any excuses. He blasted the Alabama students with a public rebuke. Students should be at the game. Students should support the team. Professional athletes and sports commentators all voiced support for coach Saban. They all agreed: The students should be in the stadium supporting the team. Students should show up.

In the book of Hebrews, the preacher hones in on the fourth commandment. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. The early church made the intentional switch of moving Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, from an ending of the week to the beginning, from evening to dawn. Sunday became a day of resurrection. It’s right there in the book of Acts and the writings of Paul and from the mystery preacher in Hebrews. Christians should be in worship on Sunday, the first day of the week. No excuses. Be faithful. Show up.

I suspect we all need to be reminded about the importance of showing up for what is truly important. Too easy to drift off into laissez-fare lifestyles of mediocre purpose. Sabbath holds the potential for not only rest but renewal, not only being with friends, but, if you listen closely, you might hear whispers from the Holy One. Most important, Sunday Sabbath offers the opportunity to reflect on God and God’s vision for the world. You might find it more helpful to ask: What’s on God’s Christmas list?

American culture is focused at this time of year on getting prepared for Christmas. Aren’t you? I am! The advertisements make it clear it is about gift giving and gift receiving. If you want a nice Christmas gather up more stuff. Something we all enjoy even though we complain mightily.

Thanks to Sunday Sabbath, the church sees it differently. Christmas is not a time of frantic preparations. Christmas is a time to reflect on God’s purposeful gift to the world. Christmas is a time to reflect on God’s intentions — God’s vision — for the world.

At church, we gather to celebrate the surprise gift God endowed to humankind: The gift of a child, Emmanuel, God with us. The Hebrews preacher was right: Best to show up Sunday after Sunday to explore the depth of this holy surprise. Coach Saban has it right. You are an important part of the team, why would you skip the game?

Christmas reminds you God has entered human life. The Creator has revealed a slice of the holy mystery through a babe in a manger. Amazing. And, the adventure continues. . . Merry Christmas.


Pastor Doug Goodwin serves at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in downtown Sheridan.