Nelson Mandela, Christmas & the power of hope

The world lost a great world leader this past week; Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95. Most people are familiar with the details of his life story. One thing that everyone can agree on is that he inspired hope in people.

He grew up in one of the most racially segregated places on earth. In the early days of Mandela’s life in South Africa the white minority was firmly in control and the black majority was poor and oppressed.

When he tried to do something about the oppression of his people Mandela ended up being arrested, put on trial, convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison. Instead of remaining in prison for life he got out after 27 years. All during his 27 years in prison he never gave up. When he finally got out he helped get rid of apartheid and got elected president of South Africa.

Perhaps the greatest reason he gave people hope is that even when he was set free and came to hold the power of the presidency of his country he did not hold grudges against those who had oppressed him. He genuinely reached out to those who had been the cause of his suffering.

And when he left public office he continued to work on projects to bring people hope.

When people live such inspiring lives like Nelson Mandela, there are books written about them. I’m sure that now that he has died even more books will be written about him.

In Romans 15:4 Paul writes, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Just as books are written about Mandela’s life to give people hope, God caused his Holy Scriptures to be written to give us hope. Time and again in the Bible we read about individuals like Noah, Joseph, Ruth, Naomi, Esther and Paul who endured great difficulties and yet persevered to the end. As we read these stories it gives us hope.

Several verses later in the same chapter (v. 13) Paul writes, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

As someone put it, rather than abandoning hope God wants us to abound in hope. Hope is kind of hard thing to define but it’s pretty easy to recognize when people have abandoned hope. Above the entrance to hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy there is a sign that says, “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.”

Despite great men like Nelson Mandela it is still a challenge at times to maintain hope in this world. We wonder who will step up to inspire us to hope now that Mandela is gone.

One of the most hopeful times in our human existence is when a baby is born. Babies just naturally inspire hope in people. In a few days we will celebrate the birth of a baby who brought hope to this world like no other; Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Christ’s coming in human flesh means we humans have no reason to abandon hope. Would he enter our realm and then proceed to do nothing to give us hope? By no means. He has done it all. He reconciled us to our heavenly Father through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. He sends his Spirit to call us out of darkness and into his marvelous light that we may abound in hope. Have a most blessed Christmas!

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