Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"God is in the Manger," from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Many of you are familiar with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous books, The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together. But while he was in prison prior do his execution in 1945, he wrote many papers and letters on various theological topics, including the incarnation and birth of Christ. In 2010, some of these writings were compiled into an Advent devotional, entitled, God is in the Manger. When I read Eric Metaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer a few years ago, I was reintroduced to the deep and practical faith Bonhoeffer shared through his life and works. I am continually grateful for his perspective on the sovereignty of God in the midst of human tyranny and fear. Here are a few quotes from God is in the Manger. I apologize that I don’t have the exact references for each segment, but as you read them, you can imagine Bonhoeffer, paralleling a modern-day Paul the Apostle, encouraging his cohorts from the confines of a prison cell. May his words wash over us, and sink deep, as they bring to mind images of our own time’s tyranny and fear.

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it. Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.” 

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger, p. 22

“...And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever men may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.”  
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger, p. 5

“Look up, you whose gaze is fixed on this earth, who are spellbound by the little events and changes on the face of the earth. Look up to these words, you who have turned away from heaven disappointed. Look up, you whose eyes are heavy with tears and who are heavy and who are crying over the fact that the earth has gracelessly torn us away. Look up, you who, burdened with guilt, cannot lift your eyes. Look up, your redemption is drawing near. Something different from what you see daily will happen. Just be aware, be watchful, wait just another short moment. Wait and something quite new will break over you: God will come.” 
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger, p. 40

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