Advent: Day 6
Imagine, twenty-seven years in that prison cell. Much of it in isolation. May we always ask ourselves why? Power can justify the worst in all of us. Power and greed are interconnected and are very seductive. The lines of justice and righteousness become blurred for preservation of status-quo. Apartheid is a time in our recent history that humanity lay lost in the desert. There is a great divide between oppressed and oppressor as the oppressor is unaware.
Consider the desert of those years isolated in prison. With the strength and moral compass, we then find the beauty that blossoms from the greatest depths. Nelson Mandela was not without fear, but it is speaks of his inner strength guided by faith to channel this fear into hope. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Consider the waiting in that cell. As we turn to our reading today, “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.” Nelson Mandela knew wilderness. It is in this wilderness his faith and resolve were strengthened and he offers a beautiful witness to power. Isaiah shares:
” Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
“Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.”
In his liberation from prison, he came with a resolve that of a spirit that was already free. Mandela shares, “I am fundamentally an optimist. 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. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
Keeping his head towards the sun, a whole people moved forward.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
With Apartheid officially ending in 1994, we have a long way to go today in addressing inequality. May we be guided by the inner compass of the likes of Nelson Mandela in addressing power and fear. And may our deserts blossom, may the wilderness and our dry places be nourished and glad, and may we blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.
Thankful today for the life and witness of Nelson Mandela. Thankful for the leadership that exemplifies power in weakness, and greatness found in serving. As the disciples were seeking positions of power, we are reminded in our anticipation this Advent season as we await singing, “O come, o come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.” In our waiting, may we remember God enters in poverty as a little child with the kind of power that “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”