Since Time magazine first began selecting a Person of the Year in 1927, it reports that “the person chosen has typically been a ruler over traditional domains of power.” Fourteen US presidents, five leaders of Russia or the Soviet Union, and three popes have been recognized, for example. And yet, as Time notes, “The person whose singular influence was revealed throughout 2023 has held none of these roles—or anything remotely similar.” Singer–songwriter Taylor Swift was chosen because “in a divided world, where too many institutions are failing, [she] found a way to transcend borders and be a source of light.”
Time magazine explains that in her music, Taylor Swift is “committed to validating the dreams, feelings, and experiences of people, especially women, who felt overlooked and regularly underestimated.” As a result, “So many have turned to [her] tales because they’ve been so disappointed by the storylines that emerge elsewhere in society.”
“The battle of the Red Sea” is intensifying
Let’s consider some of the storylines emerging today.
Swift’s selection was announced a day before the eighty-second anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It comes as Europe is facing what one authority called a “huge risk” of terrorist attacks over the Christmas period. As one example, a tourist was killed and two others were injured Saturday in a terrorist assault near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The killer had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
Closer to home, a gunman killed three people and wounded a fourth yesterday on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The gunman was shot dead by police; a motive has not yet been established. This after a Texas man killed six people, including his parents, in separate attacks earlier this week.
Meanwhile, what the Telegraph calls “the battle of the Red Sea” is intensifying daily. Ballistic missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels struck three commercial ships Sunday, while a US warship shot down three drones in self-defense. According to US Central Command, “These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security.” Yesterday, Israel intercepted a missile over the Red Sea targeting Eilat, a southern coastal city I have visited often over the years. The US Navy also shot down a drone originating from a part of Yemen controlled by the Houthis.
All this while the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are continuing their fight against Hamas in Gaza, seeking to remove what the Telegraph calls “a terrorist organization bent on killing civilians, taking hostages, using civilians to shield its own fighters, and doing its best to wipe Israel off the map.”
According to the writer, the IDF is “the most moral army on earth” for this reason: “The terrorists have surrounded themselves with innocent civilians inside hospitals. Knowing that, Israel risks the lives of its soldiers to infiltrate these structures, take down Hamas fighters, one by one, and destroy their terror tunnels underneath. Put bluntly, Israel risks the lives of its own soldiers to spare the lives of innocent Palestinians. Their terrorist enemy does the exact opposite. It uses innocent civilians to protect its soldiers.”
“The anarchy and slaughter of great-power warfare”
Kissinger understood something that too many Americans, on the left and the right, find difficult to grasp: Power and morality aren’t opposites. Rather, power is the platform that makes moral action possible for a state. And morality isn’t a set of rules and laws that states are expected to obey. Rather, in international relations, morality involves creating an order that prevents the anarchy and slaughter of great-power warfare. Such an order gains legitimacy not by its perfect adherence to a religious or secular moral code, but by its ability to preserve values and conditions that allow civilizations, and the human beings who inhabit them, to flourish.
As a teenage refugee from Nazi Germany who later fought the Germans and helped liberate one of their concentration camps, Kissinger experienced human depravity firsthand. He understood the brutality of humans against humans we are witnessing today. In his view, the purpose of political power is to create an order that mitigates this depravity as fully as possible.
However, despite the combined efforts of leaders and nations across eight decades, conflict in the Middle East continues. As does terrorism and other violence escalating around the globe.
This is why, as the Advent week of hope reminds us, our broken world desperately needs the transformational hope found only in Christ. Like the shepherds who “made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17), you and I are commissioned by God to give the Christmas gift of transforming hope to everyone we can.
How to measure our love for God
Our willingness to share our hope in Christ is based not only on the fallenness of our world but especially on our love for our Lord.
We can measure our love for someone by our love for those they love. If you truly love me, you will love my family. We love our Lord to the degree that we love those he loves—and he loves everyone (John 3:16). And we love those he loves to the degree that we share what is best with them, whatever the cost to ourselves.
Would you take a moment to ask Jesus if there is someone you know who especially needs to experience his hope in your compassion today?