Many people have been reacting to the debate that recently occurred in the Oval Office between our nation’s political leaders. What also got a lot of attention was the quiet presence of Vice President Mike Pence during this heated discussion. A lot of humorous comments were made on social media and on the late night talk shows about the VP’s lack of participation in the debate. Some people even altered the photos of the event that cast Pence’s presence in a more humorous light.
This got me thinking: what if it wasn’t the Vice President quietly sitting there but instead it was Jesus sitting in the room with them?
This got me thinking: what if it wasn’t the Vice President quietly sitting there but instead it was Jesus sitting in the room with them? I have not yet seen anyone edit the photo to show such a substitution, but I would encourage us to use our imaginations and let the person of Jesus be sitting there in that room while this discussion proceeded along. I am sure the demeanor and disposition of all those in the room would be very different than how they conducted themselves. If there was no change, most of us observing would likely feel a level of shame or pity for how absurd it all was. But here is the truth: Jesus really was in the room with them, but there was no acknowledgement of His presence.
But here we are. It is Advent where we both celebrate the coming of Jesus into our world at the incarnation and pray for Jesus to more fully come into our lives; that he may become more fully incarnate in us. He came, he took on flesh to defeat our sin and death and then he ascended to the Father. This season of Advent presents us with the person of Jesus coming into our lives so he can take on our flesh and be at ‘work in us and through us.’ (See Hebrews 13:20-21; 2 Peter 1:3-4 and 1 John 4:9)
What transpired in the Oval Office reveals what the scourge of secularization has brought upon this nation, including our political leaders. Gone are the days of beginning a meeting, even one that had no religious subject, with a prayer. Imagine if that is how this meeting began, by acknowledging the Lord of heaven and earth was in their midst and that His presence would shape how they spoke with each other.
Jesus really was in the room with them, but there was no acknowledgement of His presence.
Did you observe the frequent lack of eye contact between those in the room as they spoke? Feel free to watch some excerpts if you want to note this detail:
This too reveals something. All of those in the room claim at some level to be a Christian. With baptism, each of them were given the supernatural grace and gift of eternal life. More so, the image of God in which they were created bears now the image of the Son of God, which intensifies the reality of being made in God’s image. At times, through a fall back into sin, we suppress the reality of the life of Christ within us or break faith and relationship with Christ by sinning mortally. But, even if this is the case for any of those in the room (and we are in no place to judge that), there is no way we can completely blot out the effects of the sacrament of Baptism.
The image of God remains and if we are living or speaking in a way in contradiction to that image there is a deep sense that something is amiss. This is how I would understand the lack of sustained eye contact between these Christians. They have set aside the reality that Jesus is with them in that moment and that they are called by their baptism to bear witness to Him in these moments. This leads to awkward glances and shame. Something is off. Jesus is in the room and he is not being acknowledged. Jesus is in our lives and we are not speaking with each other like we would be speaking with Jesus.
Jesus is in our lives and we are not speaking with each other like we would be speaking with Jesus.
There is an episode titled “Take this Sabbath Day” in the show The West Wing where the president, who is a Catholic (played by the Catholic actor Martin Sheen) is dealing with an issue that is in conflict with his Catholic faith. He has to decide whether he steps in and prevents a state from carrying out the death penalty toward a convicted criminal. What makes this episode powerful is throughout the episode the President invites the Catholic priest (played by the late actor Karl Malden) from his parish, who he is also friends with, to give him counsel before his time runs out to make the decision.
At the end of the episode, the President goes against the tenet of his faith to prevent the execution and protect all human life. As the window of opportunity is lost to intervene, the priest is in the Oval Office with him the whole time. The President rightly sees the priest as representing the presence of Jesus in his midst and directs his concerns and his wrestling over this moral decision toward the priest. The Episode ends with the Priest inviting the President to make a confession and the president decides to do so.
As we continue on in this time of Advent, let us consider reflecting on the rooms where we fail to recognize Jesus’ presence. May we invite Jesus more fully into our discussions and our relationships. May the Nativity scenes set up in our homes be a reflection of the nativity that Jesus seeks to create within our hearts.
Jesus has come, is coming, is here, and will come again! Are you living continually in His presence?