Yesterday a very famous and world-renowned leader died – Nelson Mandela. He was a man who taught the world how to forgive and to reconcile. He was a person of distinction who sacrificed 28 years of his life in a place called Robbinʼs Island in a small cell, locked away from the world but not forgotten. While he fought for freedom and was jailed for it, he was destined to come back and change the course of South Africaʼs history. In a country that still has many problems, he was able to miraculously lead it without violence into a new time of hope and freedom for all. He treated his adversaries with respect, but firmly moved the country from decades of oppression under the apartheid system into a new day of opportunity and of hope.
I had the privilege of visiting South Africa a few years ago. It is a beautiful country with wonderful people. The skyline of Table Rock, the penguins of the Cape of Good Hope, the wonders of Capetown and the marvelous scenery of vineyards of Stellenbosch, and the beautiful game reserves make it one of the most interesting and beautiful places on earth. It is because of Mandela and the end of apartheid that it is even more beautiful. He gave the world a different lens to look through to find the wonder and beauty of South Africa and, perhaps, each other.
In the season of Advent we are given the paradigm of hope, from the images of Isaiah that speak of a “root of Jesse”, a “Prince of Peace”, and the picture of a lion and a lamb together. Mandela chose to ride the winds of hope rather than to live out of the darkness of fear. It is a great thought for us of us on our journey through Advent and our struggle always to find reconciliation with ourselves, our neighbor, and our God.