Reader Writes December 2016
As the sulphurous smoke clears from the American election battlefield, we seem to be waking up in a new world. A reality TV virus has apparently infected the political universe; 'let the hunger games begin!' with, after a pause, that deliciously cynical benediction 'and may the odds be with you'. May the odds be with us all! Mr Trump and right wing populists in many European countries are claiming the mantle of Tribune of the people, summoned by good and decent but hurting people to defend them against the rapacious appetites of the elite. But just coming into view is the age of the Caesars, and our rejoicing should be leavened with clear-eyed scepticism.
When chaos, or at the least constitutional turbulence, threatens, Christians especially have a lot of work to do. Who will defend the independence of the Judiciary, and why? Who will protect the sovereignty of Parliament and its duty, on our behalf, to pass law? Whether we are servants and soldiers of the State or journalists unflinchingly speaking truth to power, we need that ethical and spiritual bedrock. Over Advent and the Christmas festival we shall be celebrating and rejoicing in Mary's immortal words of hope and promise of the Magnificat, 'The Mighty One has done great things for me- holy is his name. .... he has scattered those who are proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.'
We, the Church, in Christ's name have the serious duty of being God's hands and feet on earth, sent in his power both to spread the good news of the gospel and to love our neighbour in the many ways God calls us. Very strangely and via a bloody umbilical cord in a squalid stable, God became man amongst us. He came to redeem us, but he also shared our life on earth and left us an indelible example. He shared our poverty, he was angered by injustice, he felt the pain of weakness and knew the stress of temptation. At Christmas we celebrate a Saviour who is able to help us and guide us. He offers us personally: redemption, rescue, new life. And he gives us a new will, Spirit-fuelled, to be a blessing to others.
If we despair that we might be entering a Hunger Games world, dystopia turned reality, then let's remind ourselves of the world Jesus was born into. The Roman Empire, like all empires, essentially sought to preserve the privilege and power of its elites. The world the Apostle Paul so easily criss-crossed on his missions was also a ruthless and cruel world that brooked no opposition. Pax Romana came at a human cost. Into this world, problematic like our world today, God sent his promised Saviour. But God's revolution was a rebellion set in the human heart. Our Saviour didn't come to overthrow the Caesars, as some of his followers had hoped. He has equipped us, his Church, to spread the good news of the Gospel and to do his work, a lot of work, in his power wherever we are.