The repetition of daily rhythms in our pandemic-induced social isolation reminds me of a line from C. S. Lewis’s classic The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where the Kingdom of Narnia is languishing under a spell cast by the White Witch, and it’s “always winter, and never Christmas.”
By the time you read this, the never-ending winter of another election season is probably over. Months of campaign speeches and debates and political ads have finally come to a screeching halt. You may have seen your preferred candidate rise to victory. Or you may have seen your candidate go down in defeat. If you are a third-party supporter, you may have found your joy in seeing your candidate’s face on the television screen for their ten seconds of fame. Regardless of which perspective defines your election night experience, it’s clear that we as a nation are swimming in a toxic soup of anxiety, grief, and division. What is a Jesus follower to do when our neighbors and friends are at war with each other?
Invariably someone you know will interject this declaration to smooth over the rough edges of difficult conversations: “No matter who is in the White House, Jesus is still on the throne.”
It’s a true statement. I believe it. But this verbal mantra isn’t typically employed as a powerful declaration of the gospel. The vision of Jesus on his throne in Revelation was offered to the early church as both a comfort in persecution and a call to perseverance. We cheapen the power of this vision when we use it as an escape hatch, a mollifying distraction from the challenges of our post-election struggle to love our neighbors, regardless of how they voted. It’s a “Jesus juke,” a sleight of hand that seems intended to be helpful but isn’t. We cheapen Jesus and his throne too when we Jesus juke our way around the pain of others. “Have faith! He’s on the throne!” we say, avoiding eye contact and swinging our mantra like a baseball bat at those in turmoil and need. Instead of empathy or genuine help, we offer platitudes and often disdain.
We are called to be Christmas,
in places where it feels as if winter might never end.
Yet Jesus is on the throne. Christmas is indeed on the way and our engagement with each other in such a divisive time is both our invitation and our responsibility.
It’s tempting to look away from the current chaos of our flesh-and-blood life and fix our gaze on the heavenlies instead of on those who are hurting around us. But the season of Advent, and the resulting celebration of the birth of Jesus, calls us to courageously bring our bodies to our suffering neighbors, in the same way Jesus embodied the love of God for us. We are called to be Christmas, in places where it feels as if winter might never end.
Only a church infused with the vision and power of an enthroned Jesus, the one for whom and by whom all things have been made, can see the world as it is and trust that this is not the way it was meant to be. We are emboldened, not by our own strength or strategies but by the truth of the “Word made flesh” moving among us. We move in that power, the power of Christmas, stepping into the storm of racial injustice, fighting food insecurity, addressing the systems that keep poor folks poor—all the time pointing the way to the kingdom of God. The winter of our division has no choice but to give way to the coming of Christmas.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end” (Isaiah 9:6-7, KJV).