The Bishop of Ely’s Christmas Message: Nelson Mandela can help us look at Christmas in a new way

We have just been celebrating the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. We were all completely bowled over by the sight of that smile when he emerged from prison and then by his refusal to be vengeful. We rejoice again over his gifts of generosity and forgiveness.

At Christmas, we all hope for the predictable signs of the love of our family and friends. Christians believe in the complete predictability of the coming of Jesus. We trust that he is God unwrapped as the present we can all receive. I saw the television images of the natural family of Madiba and all those grieving South Africans who see themselves as part of his wider family. His death is at one level a terrible loss, hard to be borne at Christmas. This is how it is for everyone’s first and lasting Christmases when they have loved and lost a special person. Mandela has not been lost to us, however. There is a fervent hope that South Africa will continue to move towards the more equal future for which Mandela lived. What a wonderful year-round gift that will be. More than that, we are assured that we can go on cherishing the man who has only gone as far away as God, who is closer to us than our breath. The entirely predictable gift of Jesus each Christmas opens for us the way to a hopeful future in which we are not written off by death, but propelled into new life.

As we remember Nelson Mandela, I invite us all to invest in Christmas in a new way.

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