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Captured and Compelled by the Wonder of the Manger
Reflecting on the Second Sunday of Advent: One Day after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 21
Old Testament: Isaiah 24:1-16a
Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
God of timeless grace, you fill us with joyful expectation. Make us ready for the message that prepares the way, that with uprightness of heart and holy joy we may eagerly await the kingdom of your Son, Jesus Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
They lift up their voices; they sing for joy;
they shout from the west over the majesty of the Lord.
Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord;
in the coastlands of the sea glorify the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.
From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise,
of glory to the Righteous One (Isaiah 24:14-16).
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
No priest, no theologian stood at the manger of Bethlehem. And yet all Christian theology has its origin in the wonder of all wonders: that God became human. Holy theology arises from knees bent before the mystery of the divine child in the stable.
Without the holy night, there is no theology. “God is revealed in flesh,” the God-human Jesus Christ—that is the holy mystery that theology came into being to protect and preserve. How we fail to understand when we think that the task of theology is to solve the mystery of God, to drag it down to the flat, ordinary wisdom of human experience and reason! Its sole office is to preserve the miracle as miracle, to comprehend, defend, and glorify God’s mystery precisely as mystery. This and nothing else, therefore, is what the early church meant when, with never flagging zeal, it dealt with the mystery of the Trinity and the person of Jesus Christ…. If Christmas time cannot ignite within us again something like a love for holy theology, so that we—captured and compelled by the wonder of the manger of the Son of God—must reverently reflect on the mysteries of God, then it must be that the glow of the divine mysteries has also been extinguished in our heart and has died out.
PRAYER: Laboring God, with axe and winnowing fork you clear a holy space where hurt and destruction have no place, and a little child holds sway. Clear our lives of hatred and despair, sow seeds of joy and peace, that shoots of hope may spring forth and we may live in harmony with one another. Amen.
from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas.