For many athletes their goal may be to get better at their sport, but invariably they become someone with more focus, motivation, and work ethic. Essentially they become better people along the way as well. But why does this happen?
The history of the tradition of nativity scenes can teach us why this happens.
The First Nativity
The first nativity scene occurred in 1223 in Greccio, Italy. The well know St. Francis of Assisi desired to emphasize the celebration of Christmas and did so by recreating the scene found in the Bible. The original cast of the nativity involved live participants. An infant, farm animals, and other people were all brought in to play their part. This dramatic representation of the nativity had a great effect on the audience. (Can you picture a baby in a feed trough?) An onlooker even stated, “if meditated upon by the world, (this scene) must needs stir up sluggish hearts unto the faith.” Clearly it must have been a powerful moment.
The Power of the Physical
If you imagine that recreation with all the smells, the sights, and the sounds you can already feel how much more of an impression it would make compared to the small lifeless porcelain nativity scenes you may be familiar with. St. Francis knew that this type of experience would have a greater impact than simply talking or thinking about Christmas.
The physical engagement with a concept is what truly affects people. In the same way as athletes strive for excellence they do so with their full physical selves. Instead of just learning plays or reading about motivation they have to embody both while facing physical challenges. Through this engagement with mind and body they not only become better athletes, but better people.