The True Meaning of Christmas, and Brandon Burlsworth
Folks, last night I watched the movie GREATER, which is about Brandon Burlsworth, a young man who with faith, optimism, hope, and hard work transformed himself into not just a football player, but a starting guard with the Arkansas Razorbacks. Burlsworth even got drafted by an NFL team, the Indianapolis Colts, and everything looked bright…
Then, he was in a car accident, not too far from his home. He died at age twenty-two, just three weeks after being drafted by the Colts.
Despite Burlsworth’s life being incredibly short, he was a truly inspirational figure. He realized early what he wanted to do, didn’t have the natural talent or stature to do it (a late growth spurt helped with the last), but worked harder than anyone else. He listened to his coaches, who appreciated his hard work and dedication; he listened to himself when others told him he couldn’t do something, and he listened to the Higher Power, and trusted that what he believed in — what he wanted to do — was the right thing.
Did every day go well for him? Of course it didn’t. Did he have days where he wondered why he was doing what he was doing? Of course he did. Did he have ups, downs, and frustrations like the rest of us? Of course he did.
But every day, he got up, and he did what he could to work toward his goal.
And he achieved it. He went from walk-on to three-year starter at Arkansas, he became an All-American, and he was drafted by the Colts.
Of course it would’ve been better had he lived longer. Burlsworth was the type of person others respected, and because of his own unshakeable faith and hard work, who knows what he could’ve become over time?
But his was a truly remarkable and inspirational life. This was a bookish, overweight kid with very little (if any) athletic talent, but he had a dream and he worked hard every day to achieve that dream.
And he did.
What does this have to do with the true meaning of Christmas, you ask?
The story of Jesus’s life is powerful, partly because of his humble beginnings. Everything seemed stacked against him from the start. His family was not wealthy or powerful. He grew up in a hostile environment (what else can you call the persecution of King Herod, anyway?), was different from everyone he knew in many ways, and had a quiet, unshakeable faith that he would find his path and make a difference.
And he did.
We still remember Jesus, two thousand plus years later. We remember the power to make a difference, to love one another, to be good to one another, to appreciate one another, to work hard and not let anyone stop you — not even yourself.
Every single day will not be easy for you. It wasn’t for Jesus. (It wasn’t for Brandon Burlsworth, either. Read more about his inspirational life here at the blog Sports on Earth.) But it’s worth it if you get up every day, work hard, have faith (yes, even when it’s difficult or nigh on to impossible), and believe that tomorrow will be better than today.
That, to my mind, is far more the spirit of Christmas than anything commercial. Because it boils down to just a few things:
Love one another.
Treat others with respect and kindness. (Yeah, the first kind of implies that, but why not spell it out? Can’t hurt.)
Don’t give up.
And if you can believe in the Higher Power — whatever and however it manifests for you — good. Because that may allow you to tap into more optimism, and that’s all to the good.