Just to be clear, Jesus did not receive the death penalty for chucking little children under his chin. Nor was he executed for being a sweet-smelling baby lying in a manger. He was crucified for sedition and hated for breaking boundaries and disrupting norms. And for being God’s Word in human skin.
The news that President George H.W. Bush died late Friday night was not a surprise but it was a jolt – a reminder of gentler days when Presidents wrote thank you notes and showed authentic devotion to their family and to other people’s families. We, the American people, found comfort in having a President who so clearly treasured his spouse and expressed gratitude for the grace and privilege of his life. I personally appreciated his words about being a thousand points of light and being a kinder, gentler nation.
Yes, we can be points of light especially in these Advent days when The Light is coming. Yes, we can be kinder and gentler (recognizing that even President Bush was not always that way.)
Our nation is craving Light these days. We have become meaner and coarser and it’s ugly. The Advent of Jesus, according to the scriptures is not exactly gentle:
There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Luke 21:25-26
Ugh. And all we wanted were holly wreaths and sugar plums.
It’s radical to be kind when someone is throwing tear gas canisters at you. It’s unnaturally holy to be gentle when a nation once aspiring to be a shining city on a hill (a term that came from the Bible before John Winthrop and then John F. Kennedy and then Ronald Reagan quoted it) now turns away refugees fleeing for their lives.
How do we balance kinder/gentler with responsible/firmer? We look to Jesus. Jesus turned over tables in the temple for the sake of justice towards the poor – not because he was cranky about getting bad reviews. He was arrested for the sake of being as God has called us to be.
I pray for a kinder, gentler nation that feeds the hungry, heals the sick, houses the homeless, and welcomes the stranger. This is not radical stuff. Except that Jesus was killed for doing it because it challenged the empire.
Is it possible to challenge the empire while being kind and gentle? (Yes. But we will suffer for it and it might just kill us.)
Image of President and Mrs. Bush and Millie, Christmas 1987.