The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Patching Cracks


December 9, 2020

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who spoke out openly against Hitler during WWII. For his public opposition to the Nazis and his involvement in a plot to assassinate the dictator, Bonhoeffer was arrested, kept in a concentration camp for 2 years, then executed. In a letter he wrote to his fiancé from prison, Bonhoeffer reflected on Christmas with the amazing comment that: “I think we were going to have an exceptionally good Christmas.” The statement is a little crazy given his circumstances. Later in the letter, he explains his reasoning: “I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words: ‘We’re beggars; it’s true.’ The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth.” The idea being that the less we have with which to celebrate the holiday, the less we have to focus on instead of the true meaning of the holiday itself. Without gifts, decorations, parties, fancy meals, and everything else, the German pastor was content to focus on the birth of Jesus and God’s love for His creation. While the circumstances that surrounded Bonhoeffer’s letter writing are extreme to the point where our current situation is not really comparable, there is a principal that is worth paying close attention to. This year has been difficult. Pandemic, economic stress, political venom, and murder hornets have worked together to ensure we are not able to do everything we would normally do. This past weekend we didn’t have the Christmas Stroll, families will find it harder to gather, shopping is curtailed, and many folks aren’t able to attend church out of risk of illness. Bonhoeffer’s point is that with less in our hands to focus on (or fewer events on our calendar to attend,) we are more able to focus on the birth of Jesus. It is tempting to be sad and complain about the circumstances that have messed up our celebrations, but we can take it as an opportunity to look to the manger and celebrate the real gift of God that we celebrate on Christmas Day. Most religions in history have focused on how we can live right to climb the great spiritual mountains of life and hopefully find God at the top. Christmas is about God realizing we would never be able to climb high enough to find Him or obey rules well enough or do anything else to reach Him. So, instead He came down to us and was born poor and lived His life amongst us. We can meet God as imperfect people with nothing to offer. When we strip all the trappings away, we find God and His love for us. I miss the Stroll and parties and Black Friday shopping. But perhaps this is a chance to focus on the gift God gave us when we have nothing to offer back.


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