And third place is the winner!
Jesus chose to be born, fully human (and yes, fully divine). He knew he would be born under unimaginable circumstances to most of us in America today (Luke 2:4-7). He knew that King Herod would try to kill him as a young child (Matthew 2:16-18). He knew he would not have a place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20). He knew he would be persecuted. He knew he would be mocked (Mark 15:31-32). He knew he would be murdered (Matthew 27:45-50).
And yet. Jesus chose to be born, fully human (and yes, fully divine).
As I sit here with so much in question due to the pandemic’s fallout from this year, I find myself reflecting on his choice.
I remember the suffering Jesus chose to bear for my sake and for your sake. I remember his sacrifices and his faithfulness to his mission; a mission that reconciled me to God and made me an heir to his kingdom. A kingdom that is promised in complete fulfillment, but has not yet fully arrived.
The “not yet” part is so much easier to see than the promise that its fulfillment is indeed coming. I can’t see the promise, but the fact that its completion has yet to arrive is painfully apparent. Especially tonight, with feelings of fear, failure, and impending loss attempting to suffocate my hope.
I look at the festive room around me and wonder if our first Christmas in our first home together will be our last.
But immediately following that thought, I think: so what if it is?
I have not been promised favorable circumstances. I have not been promised a nice home in the suburbs or a guarantee of only good and easy things in my life. I have not been promised full support from everyone I meet or a long healthy life.
No. I have not been promised these highly coveted indicators of success in America.
I have been promised much, much more.
I have been promised forgiveness for my failures (Acts 13:37-39), daughtership of Christ (Romans 8:14-16), an eternity free of pain and suffering (Revelation 21:1-4), justice for unrepentant abusers (Isaiah 9:6-7), and vindication from false accusations (Revelation 6:9-11). Good heavens, if this was The Price is Right, which door of prizes would you choose? The ‘burbs? No, thank you.
In return, I have also been asked for much, much more. Above all else, I am to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). I am supposed to love him with everything I am and everything I have. Second, I am to love my neighbor as myself (Mark 12:31).
So simple to understand. So hard to execute.
In a culture that centers around putting my own self-care first, my own provision, my own wants and desires, it is easy for priorities to fall out of order. Maybe I manage to have God rightfully in first place, but I mistakenly put myself in second place.
I am third.
In reality, according to scripture (Philippians 2:3-4), I am supposed to put God first, and everyone else second…
So, I am very much last. But that works out great for me for two reasons:
God will never abandon me, so when I put him first, I can fully trust him with my ultimate best interest (Luke 12:27-28).
Christ said, “So the last will be first” (Matthew 20:16). I would much rather be last here on earth and first in the kingdom of heaven.
I am not yet done suffering losses in this life. I know this because I am still breathing and because Christ has not yet returned.
But I know how the story ends, and in comparison to eternity, I have not lost a thing.
Call to Action:
No matter your spiritual beliefs, identify one new way in which you can put yourself second to someone else today. Commit and live it out. How did you feel?