Kings are such a problem

Elaine Silverstrim - Contributing columnist

As we enter our final and Fourth Sunday of Advent, I am struck by the dissonance between preparing to welcome the Lord of all creation arriving as a vulnerable and powerless infant and the geopolitical environment gripping our country.

And the passages of 1 Samuel 8:1-22:

“4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations.” … “7 And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them….”

Samuel, to his credit tries to reason with the people, explaining the “ways of the king who will reign over you.” “He will take your sons…” “He will appoint commanders, some to plow his ground and reap his hares, and to make his implements of war…” “He will take your daughters… He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain…and give them to his officers and his servants.” “He will take your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle…. He will take your flocks, and you shall be his slaves…”

The people cannot say they weren’t warned, but they went ahead and insisted on being given a divinely appointed king, and overall every word of warning played out. Samuel described perfectly authoritarian kleptocracy under the reign of a king with absolute rights.

We are nearly three thousand years on from these words, even a shallow understanding of history can tell us that it has never gone well for the poor, the most vulnerable, the “others”, as defined by those in power, under despotic, divine right rule. And yet, the popularity of such regimes, we are constantly reminded, has a long history.

And into that history, God would break through, if we let the divine light arrive, to remind us our only king comes to us as a weak and vulnerable child, with none of the glitz and glitter of earthly kingship.

May we all please pause and ponder in these final few days what kind of king we wish to rule our lives.

Blessings for a natal day filled with gratitude for a king truly worthy of our worship and fealty.

Rev. Elaine Silverstrim is a retired Episcopal priest, a member of the Wilmington Area Ministerial Association, and a resident of Wilmington.

Elaine Silverstrim

Contributing columnist