On December 1, 1943, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison to his young fiancée:
“I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. The very fact that outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. 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 poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth.” – as recorded in Bonhoeffer’s God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas
It is striking how Bonhoeffer reminds us what Advent is for. He allows the Holy Spirit to prepare his heart for the birth of Christ. His posture is one of receiving and welcoming. How blessed it is to receive, maybe even more so, than to give. “I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas,” Bonhoeffer writes. In spite of his own unjust imprisonment, the losses of good friends to war, separation from those he loved, and dealing with evil all around him, Bonhoeffer believed it would not just be an endurable Christmas, but an exceptional one.
In a 1978 Christmas Eve homily, Arch Bishop Oscar Romero preached a similar message:
“No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God — for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.”
May you have an exceptional Christmas!
Photo by Flickr user Rachel Kramer, via CC