Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too. Luke 2:34-35
Kia ora whanau in the name of our Advent Lord
Before last month’s earthquake I had planned to write around the US presidential elections and promised you some thoughts around this. The coming of our Saviour into the world as a child and the Advent period is a good time for reflecting on the events of the past few weeks. In our own political context, we are now too looking ahead into 2017 in the light of our own election contest after John Key’s unexpected resignation.
Appropriately for this season then, this is a time of watching and waiting. We sit in an Advent space waiting to see what Trump’s presidency will look like as it unfolds, and what issues will rise to the top of the pile as priorities for Aotearoa New Zealand going into our election year.
What has been amazing to me in the whole process of recent political events is the power in our Western culture of our own individual and collective choice as Christians; whether we choose to use this for good or ill. In the US the decisions have already been made; for us as a nation (and in our Diocese) this is still to come. In the Trump context, what has been amazing to witness is the role of Christianity in the election of an individual whose behaviour and narrative of racism, sexism and bigotry has been at such odds to the heart of the gospel.
Looking at some of the statistics post-election has been worrying. Take a look for example at the analysis of Pew Research Center, the non-partisan US religious think tank. It appears that it was the Christian evangelical majority that got Donald Trump across the line. One would have thought that whilst this group has consistently voted for Republican candidates, in the end the sheer anathema to gospel values that is Donald Trump would have become apparent. Instead, the number of Christian evangelical votes increased slightly. Those of Jewish, Mormon or those of no faith largely favoured Clinton over Trump.
Returning to the Advent season then, what was God’s choice in selecting a leader for us? His choice was not to send a ruler from our own world, fluent with financial acumen or with a history of military success, but his own Son. And he didn’t send Jesus to a family of power, but as a child, to Mary and Joseph. He did not just try to put himself in the shoes of the vulnerable; he became the vulnerable. Ultimately, Jesus used redemptive suffering to change the world – laying down his life, picking up his cross, and instructing us all to forgive. His ministry looked outside the boundaries of national interest to a view that encompassed compassion towards all people. In recent electoral decisions it appears that much of our world has endorsed a perspective contrary to this.
For us as individuals and when we make collective democratic decisions, we need to ask ourselves honestly how much Jesus’ vulnerable leadership model really influences our decisions. In the power play of our relationships, do we practice humility and vulnerability? Do we narrow our worldviews to practice relationships that encompass only those who make us feel safe? Do we choose people, like Mary and Joseph, who can be trusted with nurturing our futures? Can we ourselves be trusted? Do we choose, like Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, to empty and give away our lives for the sake of others?
As the Advent season moves into Christmas, please keep the leaders of our nations in your prayers as they make decisions on our behalf.
Blessings to you all in this season. May you know Christ’s peace and experience a period of deep refreshment and refuelling for the challenges of the forthcoming year ahead; looking forward to the privilege of doing His work for the coming of His Kingdom.
Bishop of Wellington