We are getting used to the idea now but I guess we will all remember for a long time our shock on the morning of Wednesday 9th November when we awoke to the news that Donald Trump was the president elect for the USA.
We had heard disturbing rhetoric from him over the course of the election campaign. Some of what he had said reminded us of the distortions and lies that had been used during our own brexit referendum and some was racist and sexist in ways that seemed utterly unsuitable for someone aspiring to high office. Yet, he touched a chord in part of the American psyche that resonated with people to the extent that a majority voted for him to become the 45th president of the USA and one of the most powerful leaders in the world. We all wonder what sort of leader he will make. Will he be able to work with others, listen and understand the needs of those whose views are different to his? Although at present he is showing a different side from his nature than the one we saw during the election campaign it is hard to believe that he will be the sort of president we want and expect: and because he is not what we expect, we are fearful.
This situation reminds me of a different country at a different time where the people also had very clear expectations of who their next leader would be and what he would be like. Two thousand years ago the people of Israel, under Roman occupation, were longing and waiting for the promised Messiah.
They dreamed that God’s anointed one would lead them to victory over their oppressors. They hoped he would be both a mighty warrior and a powerful leader and judge of their people – after all he was to be from the line of David, the fabled warrior king who made their nation great.
We know that when the promised messiah came it was as a vulnerable baby, born to a working class family, in humble circumstances – not as a prince, born in a palace. He grew up in obscurity and taught that the kingdom of God was not a mighty national state but was about living as God wants us to live – in love and compassion. He taught people to love others as God loved them and he demonstrated God’s love by dying on the cross – the shameful death of a felon – to bring forgiveness to us all. Those, whose expectations were that God would show his power through military might, found him completely unacceptable, but to those who understood that God came in humility to demonstrate his love for humanity in humility, he opened the kingdom of God and brought eternal life.
This Christmas time let us come to the manger with our hearts open for the new and wonderful way that God worked when he first sent Jesus, his Son to be our Christ, and also to the possibilities that living life according to God’s kingdom will bring.
Jesus Christ, God’s holy one, may not have been what people expected but to those who welcome him into their lives this Christmas, will find far more than anyone could have dreamt.
And, of course, keep praying for America, that their new president will be able to rise above expectations too.