A time to pause and reflect on many things.  Bishop Nigel’s recent published article.


A time to pause and reflect on many things

Twelve miles north of Pietermaritzburg in rural Kwa Zulu Natal on a farmland road beside a railway track is where Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962 by the South African apartheid security forces. When I visited there a decade ago the eerie spot was simply commemorated by a small plaque: last year a more impressive sculpture of the Face of Freedom was erected.

As we have been recalling this week Mandela was charged with treason, sentenced to life imprisonment and subsequently spent twenty-seven years on the notorious Robben Island. During those dark days he somehow had the physical, mental and emotional courage to remain hopeful and committed to the cause of freedom and justice for the oppressed people in his country.

On his release from prison he achieved what many believed impossible. He completed what has been called the Long March to Freedom by shunning revenge and seeking instead human reconciliation and political change based on truth, transparency and forgiveness.

In 1993 Nelson Mandela shared the Nobel Peace prize with de Klerk, leader of white South Africans. As South African President and world Statesman Mandela became a defining example for all who work for peace and justice. His recent death and funeral have drawn an impressive list of world leaders and celebrities to South Africa, to remember a great man and to celebrate his long life.

In this Advent season approaching Christmas we can perhaps pause and reflect on how we might emulate Mandela’s tremendous personal qualities. The true meaning of Christmas - the birth of Jesus long ago in Bethlehem, and the good news he was for reconciling humanity – is a challenging invitation to peace and freedom. Bringing joy and hope to the world is the underlying message of our Christmas carols and cards. Whatever faith we follow, honesty and forgiveness fundamentally improve the quality of our relationships and each of us can do better for sure. So, here’s three suggestions for a great Christmas:

Firstly, it’s not about how much money we spend. My grandchildren tell me it’s only twelve sleeps now until Father Christmas comes. But that’s still plenty of shopping days and local businesses will appreciate our custom in difficult times. However, kindness and generosity come in many guises. A smile for example costs nothing.

Secondly, it’s easy to give presents to those we like, and who love us back. So maybe have a think about building bridges with those people we find more difficult. Be open to the stranger as well as those we already care about.

Thirdly, there are some extremely needy and frightened, damaged and lost people around us, and Christmas is a great time to do something charitable. The collecting tins are there for us to respond to.

Wherever you are I hope that your Christmas preparations are going well and that the season brings you joy.

Published in the Courier and Advertiser on Friday, 13th December 2013 under “A time to pause and reflect on many things”.

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