Nostalgia is a natural emotional response to death. And when the figure that died has a national profile, then the nation as a whole gets nostalgic. This week just past was certainly like that as we, together, celebrated the life of George H.W. Bush. A whole lot of words were written about it. Heck, I wrote about it. As did others. Some of it was sweet, a lot of it was snarky, a good bit attempting to simply connect with readers. Some attempted to do some serious analysis, but in all honesty I think it was a bit too soon for that. As Daniel Henninger said:
Manifestly, George Bush’s death has put in motion a nostalgia for something lost. And it is a nostalgia that appears to be bipartisan.
While I was thinking about, and most importantly feeling, this nostalgia, I received an email devotional on one of the things we celebrate in Advent – Hope. Later that same day I attended a George Strait concert. (More #1 hits than any recording artist in history, but because its country music, I wonder how many people reading this know just who he is? I think the fact that certainly some do not may go a long way to explain the various “bubbles” in our culture.) One of his encore numbers was “I Saw God Today” – a song of hope, in both tragedy and happiness. Hope is the best answer to nostalgia which means, we need to consider Henninger’s word choice carefully – the nostalgia is for something lost, not something gone. We just need to find it again. But where to look? And that is where Mr. Strait’s song comes in – we find our hope in God.
The faith of the Bush clan, ecumenical as it is, was quite evident in the memorial proceedings of the last week. And that, I think more than anything else, represented the source of both the nostalgia and the hope. The nation is nostalgic for a time when God had a more prominent place in our public discourse because we are hopeful that He will return us to decency. This last week has seen a nation yearning for Jesus Christ – and there is no more appropriate time to have such yearnings than the season of Advent. Christ is in fact coming.
But that presents those of us that already have our faith and our hope with a big challenge. How do we help people understand just what it is they are nostalgic for and give them hope that what was lost can easily be found? More importantly, how do we do so in a fashion that does not somehow warp the hope into something very different? It’s not like we have not been trying to get this message across for centuries now.
Experience has taught me that when I have a hard time communicating something it is because I do not sufficiently understand the thing I am trying to communicate. A 4-year-old cannot teach physics and those with limited hope have a very hard time bringing deep and genuine hope to the world. Thus, this advent season if we have a hard time bringing hope to the nostalgia so evident in the nation, then we must ask ourselves if we have sufficient hope.
This advent seasons, let’s pray for the world and for the hope the coming of Christ represents. Let’s pray that that hope will be strongest in our hearts and lives and will shine forth from us as a beacon. Let us open ourselves and receive the answer to that prayer because God has already done so.