Kevin Williams in the Wall Street Journal offered a somewhat amusing and also very cynical view of current American politics. Essentially he says the American people are responsible for and deserve the current state of American politics.  He is right in that regard. It’s a truism that a nation, unless it’s occupied by a foreign power, deserves its leaders and culture.  Rather than thinking of ourselves as victims, we should more maturely own our contributions to national problems.

But Williams, who is, I believe, non-religious, is too cynical.  Yes, we as a people deserve our fate.  But fortunately, in the mercy of God, we are often rescued from our fate.  Supposedly Otto von Bismarck said: “God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.”  Many times, providence has saved America from itself.

Providence, of course, is not just watchful over America and superintends all of humanity. There are always in the world great evils. Yet divine providence, and redemption, always have the final say.  We have a special reminder of divine providence in the Christmas story.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, exclaimed after being informed she would carry the Christ child:

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of the Almighty’s servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is God’s name.
God’s mercy is for those who fear God
from generation to generation.
God has shown strength with God’s arm;
God has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
God has helped servant Israel,
in remembrance of God’s mercy,
according to the promise God made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

Yes, God speaks and deploys for very special missions even young Hebrew maidens of whom nobody had ever heard. Importantly, He “has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. God has brought down the powerful from their thrones.” We may think that great forces, dictatorial leaders, corrupt institutions, delusional populations, have the final say, that resistance to their errors is futile.  But God is always intervening to ensure righteousness and order ultimately will prevail.

The wider Christmas story amply illustrates providence in action. A Roman imperial census summons the Holy Family to Bethlehem.  Caesar Augustus never learns how his dictate was providential. We only know of his census because of its unintended soteriological role. A wicked king resents and tries to destroy the Holy Child.  He is stymied by visiting wealthy foreigners who are mystically called to adore the Child.  And the Holy Family again evades the wicked king’s wrath by escaping to Egypt, once a place of captivity for Hebrews but now ironically a refuge. The wicked king is recalled now only because of his failed attempts at holy infanticide and his successful infanticide of other innocent infants.  After that king’s death, the Holy Family returns, and the Holy Child grows to manhood, accomplishing His divine mission.  Ultimately, it is He, and not any earthly king or emperor, or will reign forever, with justice and mercy.

At Christmas, we are reminded that grand events in the world, no less than personal events for ourselves as believers, are within God’s sovereignty and are ultimately deployed for His purposes, with salvific implications.  He’s got the whole world in His hands, as the children’s hymn says.

Putin might be master of Russia.  He might control 20 percent of Ukraine.  But his doom is providentially preordained.  His crass exploitation of the church in Russia will be a special mark against him in the final account.  Xi Jinping may command the world’s largest police state, the second largest economy and the world’s second powerful military. He has grand ambitions for himself and his atheistic ruling communist party. But divine providence has even greater plans for his doom and the failure of his state.  Iran’s mullahs’ rule in the name of their God, while turning their exhausted country into a nation of atheists and religious scoffers.  Their crash is inevitable.  North Korea’s little despot launches rockets and boasts of his nukes.  His impoverished regime will end badly.

Hamas has performed its most successful and dastardly terrorist attack ever, ensuring its destruction.  Their Houthi allies fire drones amid acts of piracy. Their demise will not be pretty.

Divine judgment and redemption are constantly enacted around the world, sometimes visibly before our eyes, sometimes slowly, almost invisibly, but always ongoing. Judgment and redemption unfold constantly within America.  We suffer for our collective sins, while faithfulness is honored, and mercy is extended.  Righteousness and good sense will prevail in the end, but often only after much suffering.  And we are not absolved of our own responsibility.  God prefers to work through us to achieve His will.  

Let’s trust in the will of providence while also leaning into it, allowing providence to use us to expedite the dispatch of injustice and the arrival of greater mercy for all.  We know ultimately the government will upon His shoulders.