Before ascending to the presidency of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech in 1858 that would launch his political future.
That speech would foreshadow his political career and his country’s growing division concerning slavery.
Drawing from the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:25, Lincoln foretold the harsh reality of America’s original sin.
The future president and savior of the Union prophetically declared, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”
He continued, “It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.”
Three short years later in 1861, at the battle of Fort Sumter, the country would submerge itself into the deadly reality of a nation divided.
While Lincoln was correct about a house divided, he was also right that one side of the slavery debate would end victorious.
As Lincoln ascended to the presidency, it became apparent that the president cast his lot with those opposing slavery.
Today, once more, the United States appears severely divided. This time, instead of blue and gray, we have separated ourselves between the colors of blue and red.
Lincoln’s words should echo in all of our ears, for those who continually divide themselves will inevitably fall.
While we bicker and attempt to find the right insult to level against our neighbors, a darkness continues to grow in the distance.
We must not mince words when it comes to the reality we face as a global community; this growing struggle is between light and dark.
Or, as the Apostle Paul referred to it, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12).
Jesus encouraged his followers to “believe in the light, so that you may become children of light” (John 12:36).
Paul, inspired by Jesus’ words, referred to the Christian community as “children of light” ushering in a new day (1 Thessalonians 5:5).
As the season of lights is among us, both Advent and Hanukkah, let us recall the prophet Jeremiah’s declaration, “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time, I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days, Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jeremiah 33:14-16).
David’s kingdom was suffering after his death, divided and vulnerable. They longed for a day when both halves of the kingdom might be reunited under the banner of the expected Messiah.
Through the Messiah, Judah would be saved, and Jerusalem would find safety. By the Messiah’s righteousness, darkness would give way to light for hope and peace to prevail. A new day would dawn.
For Christians, the season of Advent is about preparing for the coming of the Christ child. The “Branch of David” has already been born, but hard work remains to prepare the world for his message.
His message remains one of light, illuminating hope, love, joy and peace. The themes of Advent are the hopes for reconciliation with God and each other.
For a divided nation, our faith remains in the child that has been given to us. He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
More now than ever before, we need the hope and light of Christ to shine brightly in our world.
Last week, we learned about the devastation of climate change.
We watched asylum-seekers being treated as invaders.
We cringed at the escalation of war between Russia and Ukraine.
We wept as more death visited Syria.
We shuddered as war and famine killed more children in Yemen.
We heard news that GM is shutting down five plants and eliminating 15,000 jobs.
Our world needs hope.
We must let the light of Christ shine boldly through the world, exposing the darkness and illuminating a path forward toward the Advent themes of hope, love, joy and peace.
We need the seasons of light to shine brightly this year, so no matter your faith, no matter your political affiliation, no matter your denominational loyalty, the moment is upon us to shine our lights brightly that healing and hope will abound.