Last week we said farewell to George H. W. Bush, our nation’s 41st president. No matter where one falls on the political spectrum or the evaluation of his presidency, there is no denying he was both an impressive and an admirable individual.
The first president Bush was a classic overachiever and leader. His passion for involvement and leadership was readily seen in high school. His list of accomplishments there includes being senior class president, a member of the editorial board of the school newspaper, and captain of the varsity baseball and soccer teams. His penchant for leadership continued at Yale, where he was not only captain of the baseball team but involved in many other campus organizations as well. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa upon graduation.
As far as presidents go, Bush’s career path to the White House was impressive. He was a decorated WWII navy pilot, a highly successful businessman in the oil industry, a congressman, an ambassador to the UN, director of the CIA, and vice-president during the Reagan administration. He held several other positions of prominence along the way that made his presidential resume sparkle, especially by today’s standards. But as impressive as his upbringing and public life of service was, it was his humble attitude that is often referenced as the true measure of who he was.
At his funeral service last week, a common theme among the words spoken in his honor was how his humility spoke so honorably. Family members, former colleagues, even former political opponents, spoke of how his words and actions reflected a conscientious effort to “overcome” his privileged upbringing. Although he came from a wealthy New England family and attended prestigious, private boarding schools prior to his Ivy League education, his mother was often credited with instilling in him the humble attitude that impacted so many others. One could say she “never let him remember where he came from.” One tribute referred to him simply as “humility personified.”
At the end of an earthly life, true humility is recognized for the admirable quality that it is. But there was one life where that same quality is admired and adored at the beginning. It is during this season when we celebrate the birth of our Savior that we contemplate and adore His Incarnation.
We worship the One whose “life of public service” could never be equaled. We marvel that the God who created all things, including His own mother, would be willing to be borne by her. We adore the One who never flaunted His privileged position of power and glory, but, “Who, though He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7).
We cannot fully fathom the humility of the Incarnation even as we celebrate the birth of Christ. But the lives of mere mortals, especially former presidents steeped in humility, help us see deeper into the humility of Christ and why the humble circumstances around His birth are to be admired and adored. The baby in the manger was truly humility personified because He was deity personified.
Former President George W. Bush, adapting a catchphrase from his father’s presidency with regard to the social service of all citizens, said last week that the 41st president of the United States was “the brightest light in a thousand points of light.” And as we recognize the life of one of our nation’s most distinguished public servants in such terms, let us do so this season recognizing the Advent of the Ultimate Servant. As the following verse from the Philippians 2 passage reveals: “And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
O come, let us celebrate and adore humility personified, who was not the brightest light in a thousand points of light, but the very Light of the World.