Earlier this summer, our family made a pilgrimage to the ultimate summer vacation destination, Disneyland. As we navigated the crowds, I noticed a common trait among our fellow mouse-eared tourists. With the exception of a few overstimulated toddlers and stressed-out parents, everyone around us was smiling and laughing. The strangers...
Where do we go from here?
Perhaps that’s the question you are left with as the election season comes to a crashing halt. Like a slow-moving train on an uncertain collision course headed straight for our souls, the election lasted seemingly forever, but has now left much darkness in its aftermath.
You are left with questions. You are left with longings. You are left with fears.
Or perhaps you have a different question lingering in your mind.
Could this be our moment?
The election results didn’t unsettle you. Rather, the results caused hope to rise anew in your heart. You want to see change. Maybe this is it? Conservatives now hold a majority in the House and Senate, with a pledged conservative now leading from the White House. This is what you’ve been waiting for. You are left with promise. You are left with hope. You might even be left with pride in our nation again.
Advent and the Election
In a lot of ways, it’s fitting that our election season gives way to Advent. Like the nation of Israel of old, God’s new nation—the Church—is longing for his return. We sing with expectant hearts:
O Come O Come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
We yearn. We long. We hope. We are exiles waiting for our final redemption. We have much in common with ancient Israel.
The election brought out a lot of stuff in our closets. It brought out our fears, our expectations, our prejudices, and our desires. And whether you woke up the day after November 8 encouraged or weary, the season of Advent and the response of ancient Israel have something to teach us in our post-election longings.
Advent and God’s Unexpected Ways
The temptation in these days following the election, especially if your candidate won, is to believe that God’s favor is upon us. You may be tempted to see the election results as God’s kindness, as God’s rule and reign being continued in our nation once again. You may be tempted to see our leaders as the answer to our longings for heaven on earth.
But it’s this very thinking that led the nation of Israel to miss Christ’s first coming. They misunderstood what the Messiah’s mission was about. They misunderstood his purpose. They expected him to come to earth, ready to put God’s enemies to death in the immediate. They wanted heaven on earth. They wanted an earthly kingdom, and when Christ came in the exact opposite way they expected, they not only missed him, they rejected him (Matthew 27:22-25; Mark 15:13; Luke 23:21; John 19:15).
Our temptation as well is to want God’s kingdom now, when what he tells us is that this is not our home (Hebrews 13:14; 1 Peter 2:11-12). We’re living in what theologians call “the already, but not yet” of Christ’s reign. We fall into idolatry when we place our earthly rulers in the category of “savior,” expecting them to do what only Jesus can do.
Jesus didn’t die to make America, or any nation, great again. He came to draw the nations to himself (Matthew 28:19; John 12:32). We are one small part of that. Kings, nations, presidents, and rulers come and go. Advent reminds us of our need to understand who our true King is, even if we have great hope and expectation for the earthly King who leads us.
Advent and Our Hope for a Better King
But not everyone woke up November 9 with warm, fuzzy feelings about the election results. In fact, half the nation didn’t.
Perhaps you are walking into this Advent season singing with the same brokenhearted fervor of all the saints who have come before us, asking “how long, O Lord?” For those who are weary and fearful over the outcome, there is much kinship in the expectant longing of the nation of Israel.
Year after year they were ruled by kings who promised to be good to them, yet consistently failed them and led them astray. They were led into exile, to a land that wasn’t their own, and to a kingdom that bore little resemblance to the one they longed for. Their eyes told them all hope was lost, but God’s Word said otherwise.
We live on the other side of this longing, with the clear understanding that Christ has come, and we can trust that he’s coming again. We might have much to fear all around us, but there is a better King coming for us. So we wait for him. We pray for his return. We long for his rule and reign to be established once and for all, where death, pain, sorrow, sin, and fighting are no more. And where justice reigns always.
But we aren’t there yet. As we step into another Advent season and remember our longings, we remember the rock solid truth that Christ has come and will come again (Revelation 22:12).
Advent and Christ’s Return
The church is longing for Christ’s return, like the nation of Israel longed for his first coming. Like them, we are tempted to place our hope in earthly rulers. But Christmas reminds us that the way of Christ is not the way of the world. We don’t hope in the same things, and we aren’t looking for an earthly kingdom. Advent draws us to long together, those who are rejoicing and those who are weeping, on this common ground—Jesus will come again.
We serve a risen Savior who holds the world together, and the hearts of kings bow to his rightful authority. Let us all long for this King together this Advent season.