Nelson Mandela and Advent

Posted by on Dec 16, 2013 in Faith Words |

Words of Faith

Rev. Rita S. Platt

December 8, 2013

“Nelson Mandela and Advent”

 Scripture   Galatians 5:13-15

This message is taken from an article by the same name written by Steve Goodier.   Steve Goodier is the Director of Communications for the Rocky Mountain Conference, Denver Metro District, Greenwood Village, CO. 

At times it becomes necessary to deviate from the published schedule of sermons and to focus on an important event. Events in the life of the congregation can necessitate such a change; world events can play a pivotal role. Such an event occurred this week when on December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela died at age 95. I knew it needed to be addressed. While reading the United Methodist News Service I came across this article by Steve Goodier that expressed what I was thinking in such an eloquent way, I knew I needed to share it with you.

It is fitting that we remember Nelson Mandela during Advent.

Advent reminds us to wait … change is coming. 

Mandela urged his people onward toward change, but the road was arduous. “I am fundamentally an optimist,” he said. “Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward” (Long Walk to Freedom). Change was coming. But the road stretching out before them was so very long.

Advent speaks of peace. 

Nelson Mandela was one of the great peacemakers of our lifetime. He lived by the words, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” But peacemaking was neither quick nor easy. “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended” (Long Walk to Freedom).

Advent is a season of hope. 

Mandela’s opposition to apartheid landed him in prison for 27 years. “In my country,” he said, “we go to prison first and then become President.” Though often discouraged, he did not give up. Later in life he said, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” Much of his success lay in his persistence. In his autobiography Mandela tells of his joy when, during those years, he was introduced to his new baby granddaughter. In her face he saw the future of his people. It was customary for the grandfather

to name the babies in the family, so he chose her name. She would be called Zaziwe, which means Hope. She would be named for a hopeful future for his people.

And finally, Advent points us toward the source of love, the greatest of all gifts. Mandela said so eloquently, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite” (Long Walk to Freedom).

Nelson Mandela was a great catalyst for positive change in the twentieth century. If he will be thought by some to be a saint, he would contradict by saying, “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

 May we each strive to be saints: sinners who keep on trying. 

Let us pray: 

Gracious and Reconciling God,

Even as we celebrate your grace and love which has come to us in Christ,

Even as we remember those who have revealed your compassion and freedom to us;

We are forced to acknowledge  that we have not always listened, we have not always seen,

and we have all too often failed to act on the call to justice which you have spoken through them.

When we pretend that we are sinless and whole, we only drive our darkness deeper within us,

and bring destruction on ourselves and our world;

But, when we acknowledge our need for change and healing, God is gracious and merciful, freeing us from every chain and forgiving us so that we are able to start again.

Thanks be to God!