My #1 Son Plays Second Fiddle

Readings: Luke 1:68-79, Malachi 3:5-12, Philippians 1:12-18a

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,

because he has come to his people and redeemed them.

He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David

(as he said through his holy prophets long ago)

salvation from our enemies and from the had of all who hate us –

to show mercy to our ancestors

and to remember his holy covenant,

the oath he swore to our father Abraham:

to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,

and to enable us to serve him without fear

in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

And you, my child, will be called to be a prophet of the Most High:

for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,

to give his people the knowledge of salvation

through the forgiveness of their sins,

because of the tender mercy of our God,

by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven

to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the path of peace.” Luke 1:68-79, NIV


My four children are the brightest, best behaved, hardest working, most wonderful children ever born.  And I’m sure that if you were to meet them you’d agree. Well, maybe you wouldn’t, especially if you have children yourself. If you do, I’m sure you would nominate them for top honors, right? After all, fathers are supposed to feel this way about their children. Imagine a normal father not thinking that his son was the greatest, most important child ever born. I don’t think there’s ever been a dad that didn’t feel this way about his #1 son. Oops, maybe I’m wrong.  Zechariah may be the one exception. The is passage from Luke’s gospel is called “Zechariah’s Song”. In this rhapsody, Zechariah reflects on what God is going to do in the world through the soon-to-be-born Messiah (verses 68-75). Then he rejoices in the supportive role that his own son, known to us as John the Baptist, will have in preparing the way for Jesus (verses 76-79).  In other words, old Zechariah’s #1 son is going to play second fiddle to Mary’s little boy. Playing second fiddle isn’t something that many of us relish. By nature we crave attention and the limelight. We want our efforts and accomplishments to be noticed and rewarded. Humility and servanthood aren’t things that come naturally to us. Zechariah’s boy, John, would grow up to show us another way, though—the way of self-denial. He would be quick to recognize that God always deserves first place. Remember his famous admission that “[Jesus] must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30) Or, as the Apostle Paul, writing from his persecution jail cell, would say—

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.  And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.  (Philippians 1:12-14 NIV)

There’s nothing wrong with second fiddle. Especially when we realize that this is the role for which we were created: “…prophets of the Most High… prepare the way for the Lord… give his people the knowledge of salvation…”  We are Christ’s ambassadors; not representing our own interests, nor satisfying our own desires, but representing Christ and doing his will. To God be the Glory!

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

Offered by David Shaw, Pastor, Emmanuel Church of the Nazarene, Wareham, MA, and child of God.


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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

2 thoughts on “My #1 Son Plays Second Fiddle”

  1. Thanks, David. In a world that pushes being #1, the holiness of witnessing to the coming of God – and that it is an honor to do so – is such a life-giving and necessary message. Peace, Johnna

  2. …and we make room for him in the inn–he increases and “I-ness” becomes less. I think we all, to some extent, can be John/Isaiah–crying “Prepare the way”. At least that’s worth pondering during the Advent season, for sure. Most thoughtful, David. Thanks you.

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