In the months leading up to our most recent presidential election, I remember passing a number of billboards emblazoned with the message: “Only Trump Can Save America.” Now, as a citizen, I can take or leave those sentiments. After all, candidate Trump had his set of policy proscriptions — just like all the candidates who opposed him had theirs. And it’s up to each voter to determine which set of goals and plans is most deserving of their support. But as a Christian, I found myself deeply troubled by those billboards. After all, it’s my deep conviction — that if anybody can save America — Jesus can. And I’m not sure how well his agenda aligns with that of now-President Trump (or any other politician, for that matter).
Of course, I don’t think I’m surprised by this. In today’s New Testament lesson (Matthew 24: 15-31), Jesus himself told us: “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.” (verses 23-25) The world has long been seeking a Messiah — someone who can “bring back” the glory that we feel like we’ve lost (or perhaps someone who can “give us” the glory of which we feel like we were deprived in the first place). But the problem is that we keep seeking glory (and we keep seeking a “Messiah” who can bring it) in all the wrong places.
I just finished reading a book called The Holy Wild by a pastor named Mark Buchanan. In it, he offers this reflection on God’s glory:
The most glorious thing God has ever done on earth is, in one sense, also earth’s darkest thing, its ugliest, its bleakest. I’m speaking of the Cross…This is the all-surpassing glory of God, a derelict man, stripped and beaten, splayed on a gibbet, His blood darkening the wood, thickening around His wounds, His side pierced so that blood and water flow out.
What does it mean to rest in this? The answer is almost embarrassing in its simplicity. We preach Christ crucified. We have this treasure in jars of clay. Meaning ordinary men and women like you and me, people who mumble, trip, grieve and laugh, get the flu, forget to floss—we take up our cross daily and follow Him, so that a little more of the treasure spills out, a glimmer more of the glory breaks through.
It is my deep desire that our journey toward Christmas would allow us to seek salvation in this Messiah: the Messiah who makes us great by showing us what it means to be servants, who makes us first by showing us how to be last, and who helps us find our lives by showing us how to lose them for the sake of others. And when we find that Messiah — humble and vulnerable; taking the side of the poor, the weak and the oppressed — we will have found the One who can save…along with the way, the truth and the life that define the only salvation worth having.