The BroadsheetDAILY – 12/20/21 – These will be quiet days in our homes
“I used to love imagining and buying gifts, but now that we have nothing more to offer …” These words were written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian and Lutheran pastor, in December 1943, from a Nazi prison, where he was incarcerated for his vocal opposition to Adolf Hitler.
Bonhoeffer will never find the fiancÃ© to whom he was writing. The Gestapo hanged him 14 days before American troops liberated the FlossenbÃ¼rg concentration camp in the spring of 1945.
âNow that we have nothing to give,â his letter continues, âthe gift that God gave us at the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious. The more our hands empty, the better we understand what Luther meant by his last words: âWe are beggars; it is true.’ The poorer our neighborhoods, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be the house of Christ on earth.
Bonhoeffer’s letters from prison were then compiled into a book, “God Is In the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas.” Even for a reader without the gift of faith, his words resonate through a time of prolonged adversity. “A prison cell, in which one waits, one hopes, and one is completely dependent on the fact that the door to freedom must open from the outside, is not a bad image of Advent”, a he declared, with reference to the liturgy. season before Christmas.
It is only with the lazy vagueness of self-pity that we can draw analogies between prison cells and the homes in which many of us have begun to isolate ourselves again. (And such a comparison is genuinely impossible for anyone who has ever seen the interior of a real prison, let alone a concentration camp.)
Plus, reminding anyone that today’s problems could be worse is a dead platitude. But a related (and less frequently cited) truth is still worth noting: When it got worse, others refused to let hope slip away and managed to do so with far fewer reasons than we did. don’t have it now.
Bonhoeffer advises patience and humility: âNot everyone can wait,â he admits. âNeither the full, nor the satisfied, nor the disrespectful can wait. The only ones who can wait are the people who carry the hustle and bustle with them. “
“And then,” he predicts, “just when everything weighs on us so much that we can barely resist it, the Christmas message comes telling us that all of our ideas are wrong, and that what we consider to be bad and darkness is really good and light, because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that’s all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, help in abandonment.
“Who among us will celebrate Christmas properly?” Bonhoeffer asks. âThe one who ends up depositing all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the crib. Whoever remains humble and leaves God alone to be exalted; the one who looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his littleness.
In the last letter his persecutors authorized Bonhoeffer to send to the woman he loved (December 19, 1944), he wrote: âThese will be quiet days in our homes. But I have experienced over and over again that the quieter it is around me, the more clearly I feel the connection with you. Therefore, you must not think that I am unhappy. What is happiness and unhappiness? It depends so little on the circumstances; it really only depends on what’s going on inside a person. I am grateful every day to have you, and it makes me happy.
We wish that during these calm days the bonds that sustain us not only survive, but are strengthened and made clearer by the unusual silence of a holiday that portends to be slightly less festive and a little more hectic than tradition. would normally require it. .
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