Our news media has been filled with Nelson Mandela’s life and death. We have watched a nation and the world celebrate the father of South Africa. I have been touched by the tears as well as the jubilant dancing and singing of the people of this “rainbow nation.”
Mandela has been likened to Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and rightly so. All three men stood for the dignity of all humankind. All three stood up to the people who would deny basic human rights to others based on skin color. All three men spoke out for people that society dismissed, the “untouchables” and people of color. They each saw not worthless people who could be ignored, but sacred people made in the image of God.
Our Christmas stories are all about people that society would have dismissed and ignored: a pregnant teenager, an impoverished couple, and destitute shepherds. Even the Wise Men would have been considered suspicious outsiders. God, however, saw them differently. God saw them as sacred and through them, birthed Good News to the world. Jesus would grow up to teach us that the least among us are, in the eyes of God, the greatest.
Who are the overlooked people in your life? Who are those who are dismissed and ignored? Who in our communities is deemed worthless by society? The legacies of these three great men would ask us to notice not only the sacredness of the outcast but the face of Christ in their faces, for it is on Christ’s teachings that Ghandi, King and Mandela based their words and actions. What surprising new thing might God be doing through those you would least expect?
When you and I treat ordinary people with respect and dignity, we are, in our own way, continuing not only the work of Christ but of Ghandi, King and Mandela. Whenever our words and actions reflect the sacredness of all God’s people, we too shine with the Light we saw in them.
What a reason to celebrate!