This year's Christmas has been dreary due to the death of my father. Before his death, I began reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Christmas Sermons for my yearly Advent reading. I continued reading after my father's death. I'm glad I did because this little volume was good for my heart during this time. Ever since I started these yearly Advent readings, no volume clearly defined what Advent is as well as this one. Advent is not just a time to meditate on Christ's birth. It is a time to determine just how separate from the world we really are. Do we long for the return of Christ as the ancient Israelites, such as Simeon and Anna in Luke 3, longed for Israel's Messiah? Bonhoeffer used various illustrations to demonstrate how we should be longing for Christ's return. Here are two:
"Think of a prison. For long years, the prisoners have born the shame and punishment of their imprisonment. Hard forced labor has plagued them, until life itself has become a burden. Again and again, they have tried one way or another to escape, but they were caught and brought back to even harsher conditions than they had before. Even if some escape, the others suffer. With sighs and tears these others lament their loss and hate their chains. And now suppose that a message came to the prison: 'Within a short time, you will all be free. Your chains will fall off. Your tormentors will be bound and you will be delivered.' Can you not hear the prisoners with one voice crying out with all their heart: 'Yes. Deliverer, come!
"Think of a hospital where a patient lies, suffering from an incurable disease, in agony with indescribable pain,dying slowly, and slowly longing for the peace of death to end this plague. And now, one day, the doctor comes to the patient and says with confidence and says with confidence: 'Today, you will be released. Your terminal illness will be healed. Lift up your head and be delivered from your pain.' "
Not only did Bonhoeffer clearly define what Advent is, he also captured better than most how the spirit of contemporary Christianity is opposed to true spirituality and how true disciples of Christ should separate themselves from it.
On Christmas day, I began reading Athinasius' On the Incarnation. Next Christmas, I shall read Luther's Christmas Sermons.