In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6–9)
Good Day Family,
Living by God’s Mercy (A Reflection from Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
We cannot approach the manger of the Christ child in the same way we approach the cradle of another child. Rather, when we go to his manger, something happens, and we cannot leave it again unless we have been judged or redeemed. Here we must either collapse or know the mercy of God directed toward us.
What does that mean? Isn’t all of this just a way of speaking? Isn’t it just pastoral exaggeration of a pretty and pious legend? What does it mean that such things are said about the Christ child? Those who want to take it as a way of speaking will do so and continue to celebrate Advent and Christmas as before, with pagan indifference. For us it is not just a way of speaking. For that’s just it: it is God himself, the Lord and Creator of all things, who is so small here, who is hidden here in the corner, who enters into the plainness of the world, who meets us in the helplessness and defenselessness of a child, and wants to be with us. And he does this not out of playfulness or sport, because we find that so touching, but in order to show us where he is and who he is, and in order from this place to judge and devalue and dethrone all human ambition.
The throne of God in the world is not on human thrones, but in human depths, in the manger. Standing around his throne there are no flattering vassals but dark, unknown, questionable figures who cannot get their fill of this miracle and want to live entirely by the mercy of God.
“Joy to the world!” Anyone for whom this sound is foreign, or who hears in it nothing but weak enthusiasm, has not yet really heard the gospel. For the sake of humankind, Jesus Christ became a human being in a stable in Bethlehem: Rejoice, O Christendom! For sinners, Jesus Christ became a companion of tax collectors and prostitutes: Rejoice, O Christendom! For the condemned, Jesus Christ was condemned to the cross on Golgotha: Rejoice, O Christendom! For all of us, Jesus Christ was resurrected to life: Rejoice, O Christendom!… All over the world today people are asking: Where is the path to joy? The church of Christ answers loudly: Jesus is our joy! (1 Pet. 1:7–9). Joy to the world!
I read this devotional reflection this week and thought I would share it with you so that we might consider together how we approach the manger of Jesus. More than that, how do we approach the season of Christmas, which begins on Christmas Eve and continues until Epiphany. Advent leads, not to a day, but to a season that remembers that Christ came into the world as a baby who becomes a child. Jesus comes to us humbly, but I am sorry to say that the Christian witness in the world today is not often of humility but of entitlement. Jesus comes to us out of love, but Christians have become known far too often for being condemning.
At the same time, many Christians hold their faith so closely to themselves, as a private or individual matter, that there is little public witness to the impact of Christ in their lives. I think there is a way to be Christian openly and freely without becoming exclusionary or offensive to others. And, I believe we need not look any further than Jesus Himself, who lives a life dedicated to the One who sent Him into the world, whose every move was intended to bring glory to God the Father, and who showed mercy and compassion to those he encountered who were in need.
Let us go to the manger. Let us go to the turning point in the history of all creation, when the work of the new covenant began in the cries and coos of that little, bitty baby…sweet baby Jesus. Before He entered the temple, before He called the disciples, before he went to the cross, He disrupted the world just with His presence in it. And changed our lives forever.
Joy to the world…the Lord has come!
At the manger,