Commentary: Advent lesson from Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow

Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow, shown when he played for the University of Florida, is under scrutiny for the way he publicly proclaims his faith. (CNS)

A lot of ink is being spilled on Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Sports pundits are incredulous that this less-than-stellar passer has helped to turn his team into a contender for the NFL playoffs. Unlike most other football players, however, Tebow has also come under scrutiny for the way he publicly witnesses to his Christian faith — something he references in nearly every interview and public appearance.

This open embrace of faith, by all accounts, has been ingrained in Tebow for a long time, although it received a great deal of national attention for the first time when the former star quarterback for the University of Florida and Heisman Trophy winner appeared in TV ads with a pro-life message during the 2010 Super Bowl.

As a member of the Denver Broncos, he occasionally takes a knee in prayer — a phenomenon now known, and sometimes spoofed, as “Tebowing.” He started a recent postgame news conference by thanking “my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” The son of former missionaries, he works with a foundation that bears his name to help sick and orphaned children around the world. That foundation is now teaming up with another organization to build a children’s hospital in the Philippines.

Like him or hate him, Tebow seems nothing but sincere about his beliefs — a fact his coach, John Fox, acknowledged in a recent online story about the quarterback. “He’s real,” Fox said. “He walks the walk. A guy like that in today’s society, in my mind, ought to be celebrated, not scrutinized to the level that he is.”

But Tebow is scrutinized because, to some, his public displays of faith are irksome, bothersome, too “in your face.” These critics often have no problem with his beliefs, they just wish he would keep them private and not wear them on his sleeve to the extent he does.

Those critics should be more concerned, however, about the antics of others that are as public but certainly not worthy of emulation: athletes guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct on and off the field, coaches and politicians caught in scandals, celebrities whose commitment to marriage lasts a whopping 72 days.

With Tebow you get something genuine — a role model. What you see on the outside is what’s on the inside, particularly when it comes to his spiritual life.

In the same story in which his coach was quoted, Tebow had this to say: “That’s the thing about my faith: It’s not just something that happens when you’re at church or happens when you’re praying or reading the Scripture. It’s a part of who you are, as a person, as a player, in your life and everything. And it should be who you are because you’re not just a Christian or a believer at church. That’s who you are everywhere, and it shouldn’t matter what situation or what setting you are in. Hopefully, you’re the same guy everywhere.”

And, therein, is a lesson for all of us this Advent season: to spend this season of waiting to welcome Christ once again by synching our everyday lives with our beliefs, to translate our words and prayers into action, to live out what we profess on Sunday during the other days of the week — at home, at work, at school and in our communities.

Advent isn’t about Black Friday or Cyber Monday or buying ever more stuff that other people don’t need or, frankly, often don’t want. It isn’t about office parties. It’s about making room for Jesus in our lives and bringing the hope and peace of Christ into the lives of others.

We celebrate Advent when we make a deeper commitment to prayer in our lives. To spending more time with loved ones who need our presence more than our presents. To bringing hope to the poor and lonely through service and financial contributions that will improve their lives by helping them meet basic needs.

Advent is about living out what we believe and not being afraid to share and show our faith to the rest of the world, even if someone gives us grief about it.

That’s an Advent lesson for us, courtesy of Tim Tebow.

This commentary was published in the Nov. 30 online issue of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. It was written by Joe Towalski, The Catholic Spirit’s editor.