Amy Gingerich serves as editorial director at MennoMedia and its book imprint, Herald Press. She is a member of Friendship Mennonite Church in Bedford Heights, Ohio.
Twelve hours in the car, all by myself. This is the stuff a mother’s dreams are made of, and I carefully planned my hours. It was the weekend before the presidential election in the United States, and I finished an audiobook biography of President James A. Garfield on a brilliant Friday afternoon in early November as I drove from Ohio to suburban Washington, D.C. Two days later I drove home, again on a clear, sunny day, and listened twice to the musical Hamilton. It seemed so fitting to listen to this audiobook and this musical centered on historical political figures as I drove to and from the capital on the eve of an election.
Two days later Donald Trump was elected the next president of the United States, and I felt myself withdrawing. I couldn’t stomach Facebook posts or Twitter feeds from friends on any side. Plus, the news of racialized violence and protests left me paralyzed.
My allegiance in these past months had been in closely following our presidential election. I was caught up in the news cycle and the headlines rather than caught up in doing God’s work and spreading Christ’s love. It wasn’t until after the election that I even realized it.
Donald Kraybill, in his seminal book The Upside-Down Kingdom, writes, “God calls us to turn our backs on the kingdoms of this world and embrace an upside-down world.”
And Isaiah promises us that when we turn to the right or the left, we will hear a word behind us, saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
Too often, though, when we turn our heads to one side or another, we get caught up in the kingdoms of this world—consumerism, competition, self-righteousness—and as we fight for success in those kingdoms, we lose track of our upside-down calling.
Pastor Larissa Moore, a church planter with the Evana Network, was a guest preacher in my congregation two weeks ago. She preached a powerful sermon commanding us not to live in fear even as our schools close temporarily because of threats of racialized violence or even as injustice seems to run unchecked in our neighborhoods. She encouraged us to rise up and spread love, to be a voice for the voiceless, to follow Jesus in prayer and action. She helped me move from my state of post-election paralysis into a state of action.
Advent is a time of living in tension, a time between celebrating God’s presence now and awaiting God’s peace in the future. A time of knowing that God’s peace is at hand and God’s peace is still on the way.
It’s a time for us not to wait and see what policies incoming political leaders will enact but to get ourselves into action: our neighbors and neighborhoods are hurting now. Into the disarray and division of 2016, God has promised a Savior, the Anointed One, who is coming, as Kraybill writes in The Upside-Down Kingdom, to herald “grace rather than greed, compassion rather than competition.”
Psalm 72 is a prayer petitioning God to give the king a heart for justice. The psalmist prays that the king will “judge . . . people with righteousness, and . . . [the] poor with justice. . . . May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy” (Psalm 72:2, 4).
Rather than read it as a prayer for King Solomon, what does this psalm look like when read as a prayer for the President-Elect? “Give [Donald Trump] your justice, O God” (v. 1).
Once again I find myself in the tension of Advent, because I can’t simply pray for Mr. Trump to have God’s heart for justice. I need to take responsibility for my own actions and inactions; I need to get busy spreading God’s love.
In this season of Advent, I pray that each of us be given God’s heart for righteousness, that we would defend the cause of the poor, that we would give deliverance to the needy. Let us rise up to share the love of Jesus this Advent season. Let’s not throw away our hopes and dreams for God’s peace to reign.
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