When I was a kid, no one wanted to be a goat. During recess touch football, if you were the goat, that meant you were blamed for your team loosing. You were the scapegoat. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t call each other a goat, but we just knew it.
Now, people want to be the GOAT. As you may or may not know, GOAT is an acronym for Greatest Of All Time. Tom Brady is the GOAT. Michael Jordan is the GOAT. Muhammad Ali is the original GOAT. Everyone wants to be first and foremost. We want to be the best.
Sometimes we cloak this in language about being our best and competing against ourselves, but the reality is if we had a chance to be the absolute best at something we would take it. We revel in being the absolute greatest.
That is why John the Baptist’s statements in the gospel this weekend are so mystifying to us and our culture. John was at the top of his game. John was a tremendously successful prophet and spiritual leader. In the gospel it says that all of the Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem came out to be baptized by John. Can we even imagine what this was like? Literally everyone came to be blessed by this man. You could make a case he was the GOAT of his time.
In the midst of this greatness, he says, “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.” While he was at the top of the top, beloved and followed by an entire nation, he preached that we was #2 and it wasn’t close. John tells us he is worthy of the actions of a slave (loosening sandals), when it comes to the next spiritual leader.
Choosing second place is difficult for our culture. In fact, the way that we celebrate Christmas showcases this difficulty. I see it in the way we give and receive gifts. We want the best gifts and we want to be the best gift giver. Some neighbors battle in Christmas light decorating. We want to make sure we have and give the best and greatest Christmas of all time!
This Advent, let’s seek to be a little more like John the Baptist. Let’s embrace second place. Let’s seek to let Jesus be the greatest in our lives. Let’s make our preparations and celebrations of Christmas all about Jesus and less about ourselves.
Live It: Choose to put someone else’s desires ahead of your own this week. Find a small way to be in second place. Pray that God gives you the grace and opportunity to do this in a meaningful way.