When Jesus came to the world on Christmas, He chose last place. A newborn infant, wrapped up in tight bands. Poor. Rejected. In animal squalor. In an underground cave. But He did something great with last place. What?
This Christmas, I went to Virginia with my father to visit my brother and his wife. I was coming back alone, and I was running a little behind schedule in getting to the Amtrak station. I bought my ticket from the machine, and then went to the boarding gate.
When I got to the boarding gate, I realized I wasn’t going to choose my seat. A line of people went from the doorway out to, well, it was really long. And as it turned out, I must have got one of the last tickets – the announcement came: sold-out train. Now, I could have scurried to the back of the line to get the “best” seat I could. But I looked around, and I saw that some people were sitting down. I liked their idea. I thought, I am not going to fight for a seat. In fact, I’ll go last – let everyone have the seats they want. The Lord will provide.
So I had a seat and began reading a book and waited until the tail of the line came by. I was the last.
As I made my way along the platform, a conductor was leaning out the last car, telling everyone: “no more seats up front, come to the back car.” But up ahead, everyone was still forging their way to the front. I was confused. “Where should I go?” “Right here,” he said. “OK.”
I got aboard, and when I entered the car I was excited: there were 3 people in the whole car. I picked the seat I wanted and sat down with my own privacy. And then I began to read again.
Shortly afterward, an announcement came across: everyone who is standing in the front of the train, there are still seats in the last car.
We are often in a hurry to get results in life. So often, we can want to get the seat we want, in the front of the train. We can want to get the perfect job, the perfect spouse, the lifestyle that puts us out in front and successful. Higher incomes, influence over others, admiration from others. We can believe that we’re supposed to go for the front of the train. But the more we strive for these things, the harder they are to get – and the less we enjoy them.
The Lord asks us to be open to something that we don’t really like in our culture: last place. He wants us to be willing to choose last place. Now, it’s not that He wants us wallowing in self-pity. No – He wants us to choose last place so that He can give us something else. He wants us to receive what He wants to give to us, what we can never get for ourselves:
“But when you are invited, go, sit down in the lowest place; that when he who invited you, comes, he may say to you: Friend, go up higher. Then shall you have glory before them that sit at table with you. Because every one that exalts himself, shall be humbled; and he that humbles himself, shall be exalted. And behold, they are last that shall be first; and they are first that shall be last.” (Lk 14:10; 13:30)