This weekend, the President and First Lady made their final Christmas address from the White House. In the clip, they reflected on the holiday and discussed their personal, Christian faith. They said,
For the final time as the first family, we will join our fellow Christians around the world to rejoice in the birth of our savior. And as we retell His story from that holy night, we’ll also remember his eternal message—one of boundless love, compassion and hope …
That we should treat others as we would want to be treated. That we care for the sick. Feed the hungry. Welcome the stranger. No matter where they come from, or how they practice their faith.
Here’s the full clip.
Since he’s taken office, hardly any U.S. president has had his faith questioned and criticized as much as Barack Obama. A poll las year found that 29 percent of Americans actually think he’s a Muslim, and many Christians vehemently disagree with his policies on controversial issues like health care and abortion.
But, even if you disagree with his political views, there’s no denying that Obama has had a lot to say about faith. Here are five times he sounded almost pastoral:
At this year’s Easter prayer breakfast at the White House, Obama’s opening talk sounded almost like a sermon. He directly referenced the recent ISIS attacks in Brussels, Belgium. “These attacks can foment fear and division. They can tempt us to cast out the stranger, strike out against those who don’t look like us or pray exactly as we do,” he said. The president said the sacrifice of Jesus, culminating in Easter, is the very reason people need not fear.
Scripture tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Because of God’s love, we can proclaim “Christ is risen!” Because of God’s love, we have been given this gift of salvation. Because of Him, our hope is not misplaced, and we don’t have to be afraid.
And as Christians have said through the years, “We are Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!” We are Easter people, people of hope and not fear.
Last summer, President Obama gave a stirring eulogy at the funeral for the Rev. Clamenta Pinckney, the pastor of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston who was one of the nine people killed by a racist shooter last week at one of the church’s prayer meetings.
In talking about the tragedy, Obama reflected on what God might do through it:
This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. The grace of the families who lost loved ones. The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons …
According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.
As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for He has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and short-sightedness and fear of each other—but we got it all the same. He gave it to us anyway. He’s once more given us grace.
Obama ended the eulogy by singing “Amazing Grace,” and the whole audience soon joined in. You can watch the entire service on C-SPAN.
Last Christmas, The White House released a special Christmas message from President Obama, in which he asked fellow Americans to pray for persecuted Christians around the world.
During this season of Advent, Christians in the United States and around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. At this time, those of us fortunate enough to live in countries that honor the birthright of all people to practice their faith freely give thanks for that blessing. Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.
In some areas of the Middle East where church bells have rung for centuries on Christmas Day, this year they will be silent; this silence bears tragic witness to the brutal atrocities committed against these communities by ISIL.
We join with people around the world in praying for God’s protection for persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, as well as for those brave men and women engaged in our military, diplomatic, and humanitarian efforts to alleviate their suffering and restore stability, security, and hope to their nations. As the old Christmas carol reminds us:
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.
At this year’s National Prayer Breakfast, Obama essentially preach a sermon on fear—and why the Bible calls us to reject it. While acknowledging global violence, economic hardships and environmental concerns, he said that “Jesus is a good cure for fear.”:
Lately, I’ve been thinking and praying on verse from 2 Timothy, ‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind’ … “Fear can feed our most selfish impulses and erode the bonds of community. It is a primal emotion–fear–one that we all experience, and it can be contagious, spreading through societies, and through nations, and if we let it consume us, the consequences of that fear can be worse than any outward threat.
For me, and I know for so many of you, faith is the great cure for fear. Jesus is a good cure for fear. God gives believers the power, the love, the sound mind required to conquer any fear, and what more important moment for that faith than right now? … What better time than these changing tumultuous times to have Jesus standing beside us, steadying our minds, cleansing our hearts, pointing us towards what matters. His love gives us the power to resist fear’s temptations.
He gives us the courage to reach out to others across that divide rather than push people away. He gives us the courage to go against the conventional wisdom and stand up for what’s right even when it’s not popular—to stand up not just to our enemies, but sometimes stand up to our friends.
Early in his presidency, Obama gave the commencement address and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Notre Dame. In his speech, he reflected on how faith should humble us:
The ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It’s the belief in things not seen. It’s beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us. And those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.
This doubt should not push us away our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, cause us to be wary of too much self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open and curious … this doubt should remind us even as we cling to our faith to persuade through reason, through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles, and most of all through an abiding example of good works and charity and kindness and service that moves hearts and minds.