This Advent, it’s clear that people surely yearn for a Savior. Who shall it be this time? Is it DeSantis? Trump? Elon Musk? Kanye/Ye? These are some of the key figures who have garnered dominant attention. As the hunt for a Savior takes off, those who have selected their hero simultaneously seek to sully the reputation of any other contenders. Their purest pick must be seen to transcend all others.
Whoever is chosen will under-deliver on his over-promises, having knelt to the coercion of a political game that requires the rebranding of oneself as the long-sought savior who will set right all wrongs, if only he is elected.
It’s cyclical. For a short time, it seems clear who each group supports; and then, alas, each would-be savior reveals that he, too, is human, flawed, and incapable of being the hero that is sought. It’s strange that so much political theater should shake popular culture during a season such as this. But perhaps it is apt.
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The world yearns for a savior even when society has shifted to reorient itself without Christ. For the individual and for communities, that most distinctively ingrained human need is not satisfied. The real yearning was not bestowed or inspired by popular culture. It was within us. We have a natural desire for God.
As each contender for the Republican nomination is exposed for his flaws, one can almost hear the collective moan, as if hope is once again extinguished. It’s the perilous hope that, with just the right candidate, we could reverse the degenerate tide that is washing throughout our institutions. The enticing promise of this inevitably dashed hope is that we could have a little power in the shaping of our world.
After all, without decent candidates, even the most politically aware are left powerless. Doomscrolling through the news seems even more futile when there is no candidate who can offer an election-day rescue from the doom that the fundraisers and pundits are announcing.
The trouble is the truth that we are powerless in some sense—and we are doomed to despair if we seek hope only in man. The cycle of disappointment and betrayal will be without end. Advent is undoubtedly the time when we must acknowledge our limitation without Christ, who is the only true Savior. Instead, however, there’s a mad rush to find a secular answer to a spiritual problem.
Our true powerlessness is exposed as two-fold, proximate and remote.
- The proximate: First, there are the most intimate intractable issues. Are you in control of yourself? While the initial inclination might be to affirm yes, only one of us was ever immaculately conceived. For those of us who struggle against original sin and its consequences, we might find ourselves to be at least intermittently ungovernable. We certainly cannot redeem ourselves. Our inner turmoil is mirrored in the social chaos around us. We must surrender to circumstances that are beyond our command: illnesses, death, sudden accidents, and the actions of evil or simply inconsiderate people all take their toll.
- The remote: Then there’s the greater world, elbowing its way into our already turbulent lives with messages of consumerism as the answer to vacuousness, indulgence to mitigate isolation, and degeneracy in place of meaning. Can we shield any one from the din of depravity? It wouldn’t be shocking to stumble across a “Plan B” advertisement while checking the weather forecast, and there are few limits on what we might be exposed to if we were to navigate a modern mall to seek out a Christmas gift.
Thus, we’re all terribly without control. We have a natural desire to fix it, or, failing that, at least to slow it all down so that it is more manageable. The frenetic pace of the world that we live in can cause us to feel as if we must forever pivot between catastrophes. Modern Christmas preparations only add to the pressure and sense of haste. But it’s now that we should be slowing down—or outright stopping—to consider what we ought to be changing about ourselves in preparation for Christ.
That’s really the only control that we have anyway. It is the freedom to choose to reform ourselves, that we may be made worthy of Him. Everything else is in question. As we look out at a world of confused genders, sex-laden “family friendly” events, and a political circus sure to worsen our present circumstances, there’s no surprise that people feel the need for order and calm. That desire for stillness will be unfulfilled if we seek it in media, entertainment, or politics.
We’ve lost our sense of season, our sense of time. It feels like there is no time. But as the demonstrated secular response to the season of savior-seeking is one of repeated extinguished hope, it ought to be clear how much a real Savior is what we need, and whom we ought to be preparing for.
It’s not that the secular world does not recognize the meaning of a season of Advent. It does. But the secular world refuses the true Savior; so, for lost souls, the anticipation that Advent represents tragically never ends, and their thirst is never satiated. It need not be so for us.