For many in our country, the feelings of hope surrounding the election of Barack Obama were palpable. Who will forget the shining faces of old and young, black and white, Asian and others, who gathered at Grant Park in Chicago on Election Night? Surely, this hope (audacious or not!) was sharpened by the grave circumstances surrounding the election: Americans were sobered and scared by plunging, catastrophic Dow industrial averages, wholescale destruction among lenders, as well as an automotive industry brought to its knees. Add to these things two simultaneous wars against global jihad, the challenges of climate change, and hope in these circumstances has a desperate tinge to it. More than ever, Americans want a leader to rescue them, to deliver them from these threats and re-establish peace, prosperity, and security. Would it be too much of a stretch to say that in Obama, some (consciously or not) are looking for a Savior?
"Desperate times call for desperate measures." They also call for talented leaders. But talented or not, there's a limit to what leaders can deliver, particularly in these times. I'm all for audacious hope; I'm deeply encouraged by the promise of Obama's leadership. However, I know that beneath these hopes and longings for a leader to deliver us lies something much more ancient and profound. You see, our challenging times only reveal certain aspects of a much more desperate predicament: we are living in a world under siege by enemies, not greedy corporate executives or wild-eyed religious fanatics, but enemies of the human race which afflict it in every way--in sickness and disease, in poverty and injustice, in drought and famine, in war and holocaust, in abuse and torture and unspeakable brutality. We have needed a deliverer ever since we were evicted east of Eden. Obama can't be our Savior; neither could Churchill or FDR or Jack or Bobby Kennedy. The problems are too profound; the crisis too desperate. These moments of vulnerability we're feeling today are teachable moments for us: these recent crises have knocked us off our high horse. We realize now just how fragile our American dreams are--and along with them, our lifestyle of privilege and expectation.
Some of you familiar with the Bible will recall the story of Israel's deep desire for a king amidst some turbulent, uncertain times. Granted, they always had the Lord to lead them as their king, but they wanted something more tangible, more tactical. They wanted a tall, strong leader--broad shouldered and handsome; Saul, in this case, was their man. And the Lord warned them against it. The rest would be history--tragedy, really. Saul didn't deliver and, on the balance, neither did Kings David or Solomon. Only one coming King could meet the need, the one born in Bethlehem. It's this coming King we may lean our hopes upon. His kingdom is without end and his reign will rid us of those greatest afflictions.
As we move into the season of Advent (and this Sunday, November 23 is Christ the King Sunday!), may we use the hope and longing we feel so powerfully in our country now, to steer us to this King who will not fail.