I know what it’s like to be a little brother. I am one. My older brother Russel was born two years before me. Rusty always baited my hook when we went fishing and took me out with his friends even when he didn’t want to. I typified the role of the “annoying little brother,” and yet if I bothered him too much he would sit on me and tickle me. Often people remember older brothers better. They tend to be more dependable, well-informed, and successful. Little brothers have to be extra annoying in order to get any attention.
Every year as the season of Advent begins the feast day of a certain “little brother” passes us by. Its day marks that Advent has arrived. This day is devoted to a younger brother, or at least a brother who lived under the spotlight of his other brother (We don’t know for certain who was the older brother and who was the younger brother, but it seems possible from the biblical text). For this reason we don’t often celebrate the day simply because we know so much about this person’s brother but very little about him. We are talking about Andrew. His feast day is celebrated each year on November 30. Likely Andrew was always introduced as “Peter’s brother.”
Andrew was first a disciple of John the Baptist (John 1:35-40). John pointed out Jesus to his disciples and said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” and immediately Andrew left John and became a follower of Jesus. Jesus later called Andrew to be one of his twelve disciples.
Andrew learned from John and from being the “younger brother” what it meant to be a true disciple of Christ. John the Baptist had said referring to Jesus, “I must decrease, but He must increase” (John 3:30) and also had said that he wasn’t even worthy to untie Jesus’ shoelaces. Andrew learned to confess in his life and actions, “It’s not about me, but about Him.”
Peter, not Andrew, has all the good lines in Scripture: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16 “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles...” Matthew 17:4 “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” John 13:9 “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” Matthew 26:35 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68 Only one line by Andrew is recorded in Scripture. During at the feeding of the 5,000 Andrew said to Jesus, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” John 6:9 Hardly words to be remembered by! And yet while his brother Peter is remembered for his memorable sayings, Andrew is known in the Scripture because of his actions. It was Andrew who first brought Peter to Jesus! It was Andrew who brought the lad with the loaves to Jesus. And it was Andrew who brought the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus to Him. By these actions, Andrew, though not being much known or well remembered, has come to be known as “the first home and the first foreign missionary.” While there is not the bravado of his “older” brother or the center stage character that Peter possessed, there is the humility that comes from the willing faith of a true servant of Christ. As one renowned writer once said, “perhaps it is as great a service to the Church as ever any man did.”
It is the irony of the matter that the Holy Scriptures in telling us less about Andrew, actually tell us more. It is in the little we learn of Andrew that we gain a fuller picture of his life and work as an apostle. For Andrew it wasn’t really about him. It was about Christ.
We don’t usually like to be overlooked. Sometimes our sinful nature wants to be noticed, lauded, and appreciated. We want to be like Peter. It is not easy to be a quiet servant of Jesus like Andrew. We must confess that we have used the gifts of God not for humble service, but for our own honor and self advancement. Remember, it matters not if we gain glory in this life but that our work matters to the Lord and that He is glorified by it. What others do not see the Lord does. The reward is not now but later. Remain faithful. Confess your sin, vanity, and love of self. Be content being “the little brother” a small and humble servant of Jesus. It is really about Him anyway.
It seems fitting then that Andrew sits in the shadows as the gatekeeper of Advent. His feast day gets overrun by the preparation for the Christmas season. And yet if Andrew were here he might think it to be quite fitting, “It’s not about me anyway; remember Jesus.” It may be for this reason alone, that Andrew, the “little brother” of his more famous brother Peter, has the first feast day of our new church year. It is Andrew who sets the tone to what it means to be a Christian. “I must decrease; He must increase.”
We conclude with the Collect for St. Andrew’s Day:
Almighty God, by Your grace the apostle Andrew obeyed the call of Your Son to be a disciple. Grant us also to follow the same Lord Jesus Christ in heart and life, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.