During this Advent Season, I’m reading “God In the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas,” a book of daily devotionals by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written in 1943 while he was in Tegel prison camp in Germany. I will be sharing some of the most important points from this book, points that really stood out to me. This week, I’ll be dividing the material into two posts, since it would be difficult to share all of the important points in one post.
GOD IN THE MANGER: REFLECTIONS ON ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS, WEEK 1, PART 1
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German pastor, theologian, and peace activist. He wrote without compromise about the Christian faith, as he stood against atrocities of the Nazi Regime. He was imprisoned shortly after Hitler’s cruel reign began in 1943, and was executed just weeks before the end of the war. God In the Manger was originally in German, and the version I’ve reading was translated by O. C. Dean Jr. and compiled and edited by Jana Riess.
Week 1 in this devotional focuses on the truth that Advent is A SEASON OF WAITING. The word “advent” comes from a Latin word, “adventus”, that means “arrival or appearance.” For Christians, Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and is a period of preparing our hearts for the celebration of Christ Jesus’ first coming as an infant, God in human flesh, also known as the Incarnation. It is also a reminder that He has promised to come again, this time as Conquering King.
In a letter to his best friend Eberhard Bethge, as the holiday season was approaching in 1943, Bonhoeffer wrote:
“Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent. One waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other—things that are really of no consequence—the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.”
Since I have personally been in a season of waiting on God for several months for an answer to prayer, this week of devotions was encouraging to me. One quote from Day 2 especially stood out to me.
“Celebrating Advent means being able to wait… Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting – that is, of hopefully doing without – will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.”
Waiting on the Lord to answer our prayers is in essence “hopefully doing without.” This was one of the most helpful quotes I’ve even read about waiting on God. God seldom moves in our timing, so waiting with hope and expectation is the key to not giving up.
In Week One, Day Three, Bonhoeffer explains that not everyone can successfully wait on the Lord. It takes a special kind of people, those who understand that they are poor and incomplete in themselves, waiting on the Holy One, the only Complete One, “God in the Child in the manger.” He is our source of strength and power to live in a way that is pleasing to the Father.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
When Jesus came in Bethlehem, He came as the LAMB OF GOD who would take away the sins of all who placed their faith in Him. John 3:16, the best known Bible verse by most people, makes it clear that God gave His Son because of His love for those He created. All men and women, boys and girls, are offered this gift, but to receive it we must believe in Jesus as the sacrificial lamb. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)
Jesus, a descendant of the tribe of Judah, will soon be coming a second time, as the LION OF JUDAH. Lions symbolize power, fierceness, and majesty. Lions have been called the king of the beasts. When Jesus returns, He will come as the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” (Revelation 1:5) Hebrews 9:28 says this time He will be coming for “those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Does that include you?