Election Days & Advent

Posted By on Nov 8, 2012 | 26 comments


The morning after election night came early for me. I sat in the blue dawn darkness on my couch with a cup of strong tea. I needed it after the buzz of the night. My own thoughts and the voices of countless newscasters and friends spun and blazed in my mind, forbidding sleep or peace of thought. The angst and turmoil expressed by so many the night before troubled me as I sat sipping my tea. My open laptop and a slim book sat with me and I turned to them, hoping for insight in sorting out my thoughts.

The computer came first, because, well, it is immediate and blinking and tends to snare my eye before I can resist. I found the online conversation from the night before unabated. Every few seconds another quote or opinion, another post of joy (with numerous exclamation points and capital letters) or deep lament (with grim predictions) at the turn of the evening’s events flashed onto my screen. I scrolled through them until the fury of hope and confusion, fear and faith screamed so loudly in my brain that I felt my very vision was clouded. I shut the computer and when I could see straight, turned to my book instead.

I expected to be calmed, for my reading was a collection of Advent reflections. Odd, and a bit early in the season, I know. But my past year has been one of such constant noise and hurry that I am desperate these days for something to quiet my heart. Advent is about the coming of Christ into the world, about creating space for him – something I deeply need. I was ready to escape into the broad, white northland of contemplative thought. But escape never came. For the Christmas story and Advent thoughts that I found in my book spoke with surprising power to the concerns of after-election morning. Further, as worry released its grip on my heart, an iron conviction took its place.

I realized that election season and Advent are both about the coming of powerful kingdoms. Both have to do with the human cry for the world to be healed and both have to do with rulers who promise to accomplish that desire. The language of holy prophecy and campaign promise are shockingly similar. As I read ancient verses about the grace and healing promised to us through Jesus and his kingdom of heaven, I was struck to realize that the claims of the presidential candidates sound eerily the same. Those two very human leaders have spent a frenzied year convincing us that they are the ones to bring hope and change, peace and prosperity, health, equality, and freedom. Messianic claims, those.

Do we, I wonder, almost believe them? Of course we all know that only God really saves, but maybe we get a little weary at the fallenness of the world and we hunger to see the kingdom of God come with more distinction. The lines between heaven and earth get blurred when we look at the leader of our choice and think that he “gets” the brand of redemption we believe in. If he is elected, we think, then God’s kingdom can come more swiftly, more fully, more tangibly. The right president, we feel, might usher in a bit of peace on earth.

It’s a natural impulse. We are eager to bring God’s life into this troubled, aching world, and it seems logical that God would want us to support leaders who can do his will on a grand, immediate scale. So when the leader we thought was righteous falls and fades before the triumph of a leader we mistrust, our fear is for something more than just the direction of our country. Conversely, the triumph of our chosen man portends more to us than good government. We mourn or rejoice as if the kingdom of heaven itself was in the balance.

But it never is. That’s the truth I realized as I read about the coming of Christ in my Advent book today. There never has been a single king or kingdom on earth that could stop or slow or even speed the coming of Jesus into this world. Herod certainly couldn’t keep the little King from entering his realm, the pharisees couldn’t keep him silent, and Ceaser himself couldn’t stop people from loving Christ enough to die. All the bluster and sputter of rulers down the ages have never halted the coming of Christ and his kingdom and this is why: the kingdom of God comes, not through human governments, but in human hearts.

The story of Advent and the holy day to which it leads us is the tale, not of overcoming power, but of redemptive love. Jesus brings the rule of his kingdom into the world by entering the wrecked house of the human heart and building it into the palace from which he reigns. The kingdom comes when God’s love so completely rules in our hearts that our actions become his own. This kingdom grows not by the influence of government, or the power of any one person, but by Love spreading from heart to heart so that slowly, the kingdom burns in a hundred, then a thousand, then a million hearts. That’s when the rest of the earth begins notice.

In my book today, I read a contemplation on Mary, the first human heart in which the kingdom of God came. Not an ounce of power or influence attended her, she was young, frail, unimportant. She lived in a tiny village in a forgotten, enemy-occupied land. But her heart was spacious and her spirit ready and when God asked her to bear his love and life into the world, her answer was a joyous, obedient yes. And the King and his kingdom came into this world through Mary. The kingdom came in Joseph when he believed Mary’s wild story and let Love rule his own heart and deeds. It came in the disciples as they laid down their own lives and were ruled and healed by Love. And it comes in us as well when we choose God as our king. The only election we need to worry about is the one in our own hearts, the one where we set Love to rule instead of self.

The Kingdom, the real one, has come. It is coming, unstoppably, inexorably, day by day in and through all of us who love God. The kingdom comes in our loving of neighbor and child, it comes through the beauty, the art and song and story we create from the vision within us. It comes through the life we incarnate into every corner of home and habit, the hope we speak, the true story we tell to the world. Yes, we can pray and hope and vote to put good men in power. But their reign will not hinder or halt the kingdom of heaven in any way. For our kingdom is eternal, a blazing love that reigns in our hearts, unswayed by this king, or that political party, or this presidential election.

I put down my book and rose to face my day. I didn’t even need a second cup of tea.

 

 

26 Comments

  1. Thank you for this — as often happens with your blog posts, as I was reading it I thought “I need to read this again and again”.

    And I love Fra Angelico :) My favorite annunciation art.

  2. Thank you for this potent reminder. Although I was discouraged by the election results,I almost immediately turned my trust to God as He reminded me that his plan for me, my family, this country and world is methodically prepared before me. It may seem like we are headed for an uncertain four years, but God will ultimately be glorified. Praise Him for His faithfullness!

  3. A couple of days ago I commented on another bloggers post that, “There is peace in knowing the One who raises princes and brings down kings. Mercifully, the Scriptures show us that God’s plan cannot be thwarted by men.”

    You have developed that idea with such depth and beauty of language – the wisest, best reflection I have read on the US election. Thank you.

    May the peace of Christ continue to be your portion…

  4. Excellent pst, but what’s the book called. Looking for a new advent book! Xx

  5. Beautiful words Sarah. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. I love this…. hope that I read here. Very much needed! Thank you!

  7. Thank you for your words. What a contrast to those I read yesterday by people who, it would appear, relied to heavily on the results of an election. God is not surprised, just waiting for us to bring Him glory in the midst.

  8. What a beautiful reminder, Sarah. Well said. I love your word picture: “Jesus brings the rule of his kingdom into the world by entering the wrecked house of the human heart and building it into the palace from which he reigns.” What a lovely, accurate contrast.

  9. How TRUE. My sister and I have been talking about this VERY truth. My husband and I have been brainstorming on how to pass the truth of that we are in a spiritual battle and kingdom! Thank you!

  10. “The language of holy prophecy and campaign promise are shockingly similar.” So true. In the certainty of fulfillment, and the means of fulfillment, the stark differences come out.

    The kingdom comes in our loving of neighbor and child, it comes through the beauty, the art and song and story we create from the vision within us. It comes through the life we incarnate into every corner of home and habit, the hope we speak, the true story we tell to the world.

    “Incarnate into every corner of home and habit” — wonderful phrase.

  11. Brilliantly written. Beautifully true. Thank you!!

  12. Beautifully written. Thank you! I love that Jesus has KEPT all His promises! Others may say they will do this or that but we/they don’t always have the power to accomplish them. Jesus has the power! He is our only hope!

  13. I was thinking similar thoughts as I contemplated Augustine watching the barbarians sack the Roman empire, the symbol of all civilization and security. Not that we are falling to barbarians but if he could have the insight to realize the Kingdom of God marches on despite the rise and fall of earthly rulers and empires, can we do any less?

  14. Thank you for composing this wonderfully stated viewpoint on the election results. I shared this on FB and with some other friends. I have read a LOT of post election articles, posts and comments, but this spoke true to my heart. It is a beautiful picture of what our mission is. Thank so much.

  15. Thank you. As always, well done.

  16. Thank you for making this connection. It was so encouraging. My mind has been rattled a bit not so much with the election but what I see going on in social media: the facebook posts, interaction, etc. It can be depressing. Thanks for pointing me to the TRUE kingdom and focusing my heart on advent.

  17. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I found myself very solemn on Wednesday and have been working on turning my thoughts back to God because I know that He is sovereign and has everything under control and knew the outcome of the election. I was just praying that a person with similar ideals to myself would be in the White House instead of someone that truly scares me and has his own agenda in mind with his decisions. We have to keep praying for change to come and keep evangelizing every single day in order for change to come and for our country to turn back to God. It can be done but it will take a lot of work.

  18. Simply lovely. Your writing is beautiful and such a gift.

  19. AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!
    Thank you for this post, a beautiful and wonderful reminder.

  20. Lovely, true, excellent words pointing us to the God who reigns.

  21. I think this is the best reflection on the election that I have read. As I keep reminding my kids, ” there is no earthly salvation!”

  22. Thank you for the peace! I agree completely. God’s kingdom is not reliant on whoever the President of the United States is! God is in control, now and forever.

  23. Wow! What a great read. I came to your site through your moms site and am so glad I did. Thanks for perspective. This blessed my heart.

  24. Beautiful.

    Shared it with friends.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your convictions.

  25. This is beautiful, Sarah.

    Happy Advent to you.

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