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December 8, 2023, Fifth day of Advent


The greatest among you will be your servant. Matthew 23: 11

In college I was the goalie on the school soccer team. As a goalie, I was the final defender of … well … the goal. No goal was ever scored against my team unless it passed by me. And basically, I (and any goalie) would get the blame if a goal was scored. In the same sense, shut outs were credited to me as goalie. But I was well aware that soccer is a team game. I was only one member of the team. Someone asked me once if that was a lot of pressure. My response? There were 10 other players on the field in front of me who did their best to keep the ball away from the other team and our goal. No one should get all the blame. No one should get all the credit. As the saying goes, there is no “I” in “team”. A win or a loss is a team event.

What does it look like when someone believes himself or herself more important than others? We see it in post-game interviews where a player complains that he or she was not used properly, or others played poorly. That is what happens when people are elevated to positions of power either officially or in their own minds. They are concerned only with their self-interest, not the team’s. Not good!

While not a great analogy, this is kind of what Jesus is saying in our text today. Jesus is saying that we need to serve the interests of each other rather than our own self-centered interests. This is the heart of what Jesus calls the second greatest commandment. Love neighbor as yourself. Do not overlook the fact that serving the interests of each other also serves our interests. In other words, be a team player in whatever you do, whether it is at work, in your family, in the community of in your church. There is no “I”, there is only “us”. Self-centeredness or perceived superiority destroys “us”.

What does this have to do with Advent? I think we can all agree that God is superior. That God has power over all. That God has the right to blame us for breaking creation. But God does not do that. God came here, joined the team and showed us by examplehow to play the game of life better. God could have remained “I”, but instead became one of “us”.

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