OK, I admit it — I watch Dancing With The Stars. That makes me wonder if I need a support group. I did grow up a preacher's kid living in a parsonage. Even liturgical movements were suspect. I am often asked if Baptists can dance. I always respond that some can and some can't. I can't. I was intrigued by Dancing With The Stars. The aspect that hooked me was that the show takes guys — real guys — football players who by themselves had two left feet as dancers, and pairs them with professional dancers, which results in an electrifying dance routine. What I like about the show (promise you won't tell a soul; I tape them!) is that they show the practice sessions — the falling, the crying, and the total exhaustion in search of the right moves. My favorite, of course, was Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith — he won, and it's actually none of your business whether I voted or not. In one season he was transformed from a great football player into a great dancer, and the reason was his partner.
Christmas is the time to celebrate our partnership — the Immanuel factor. Because of the cradle, God is with us, and because of the cross God is in us. That is probably why the kid said Christmas is when people say, "God bless you," even if no one sneezes.
Imagine that you are at a country barn dance observing the young girls waiting for a dance partner. They accept each invitation and then complain to each other about how badly their partner danced. Then you notice that one girl seems to be enjoying the evening. She's smiling and enjoying everyone's company instead of complaining about the awful young men. You're puzzled, so you ask her how come she is so much happier than the others. She tells you that she is waiting for just the right partner. She knows that he is coming, and even if it's the last dance, she's happy waiting. You might ask her what she does if the other men persist. She just tells them that she is going to sit this one out.
As I look back on this past year I realize that my times of discontent were when I danced with whatever came along instead of sitting a few out. Christmas is a great time to reevaluate our partnerships. One caution about partnerships: don't forget what you were like before the partnership.
The great Elgin Baylor played basketball with Hot Rod Hundley, the announcer for the Utah Jazz. Hundley wasn't the star that Elgin was but he talked a lot. He's still talking. This reminds me of some preachers. I wonder sometimes if they're marketing their ministry or in the ministry of marketing. One of Hot Rod's partners was Elgin Baylor, a great star. One night, Elgin scored seventy-one points, and Hot Rod scored two points. As they sat in the cab, Hot Rod put his arm around Elgin and said: "Aren't we great — we scored seventy-three points together." We need to be careful in our partnership with God and not assume we're the hot rod.
Baryshnikov, the famous Russian dancer, appeared on the stage and the audience was electrified. Opening night audiences stood, cheered, and applauded for twenty minutes. One person noted, though, that after watching performances for two weeks that there was an even more amazing story.
A young woman, Gelsie Kirkland of the New York City ballet, was chosen by Baryshnikov to be his partner. Prior to her partnership with Baryshnikov she had been regarded as good but not great. She had been known to lack confidence and to be too preoccupied with herself. But when she partnered with Baryshnikov he brought out the best in her, and her performances were sensational. The electricity was there in her dancing. The audiences sensed it, she sensed it, and tears streamed down her face as she acknowledged the applause. She knew she had found someone that brought out her best. She was good with other partners, but when she danced with Baryshnikov she was outstanding. She was radiant and she sparkled, full of life. The miracle was that Baryshnikov brought out her best.
It's Christmas. Follow the star to an incredible partnership. It will entail practice, stumbles, and at times, sheer exhaustion. Don't give up. Let me encourage you. I have seen people make moves with this Partner that they never thought possible. I know what some of you are thinking. I already have that Partner. I followed the star. Unfortunately, sometimes our life's dance is more boring than electrifying. I neglected to tell you the most important part about this partnership. He always leads. Give Him a chance. I hope you dance.