Tuesday, December 13, 2022

". . . And just when everything is bearing down on us"

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’ wrote extensively on theological topics, including the incarnation and birth of Christ and Advent. Some of his great sermons where from the times he left Germany and traveled throughout Europe and across the ocean to the United States.

But when World War II began, Bonhoeffer’s deep and practical faith fueled an active resistance to Hitler’s regime. In 1943 he was imprisoned and spent much of his last years incarcerated before being killed in 1945 at the Flossenbürg concentration camp. Rather than diminishing his faith, his imprisonment bolstered his commitment to sharing a theology of suffering with those who would listen. Much of his writing from these years was in the form of letters.

The following are two quotes. One from a sermon in 1928, the other from a letter to his fiancée in 1943. Both are deeply insightful examples of trauma-informed theology, reminding us that Jesus and the Advent characters are no strangers to the hardships and pain of this world.

“Celebrating Advent means being able to wait.
Waiting is an art that our impatient age has
forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when
it has hardly finished planting the shoot.... For the
greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the
world, we must wait. It happens not here in a
storm but according to the divine laws of sprouting,
growing, and becoming.”

- from an Advent sermon, December 1928, compiled in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas Sermons.

“…And 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.”

- from a letter to fiancée, Maria von Wedemeyer from prison, December 13, 1943, compiled in God is in the Manger.


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