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Standing the Watch with Bonhoeffer

“The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

I came across this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer a couple of weeks ago and I have been thinking on it ever since. I have been reading a lot from Bonhoeffer lately. While we think of him as a saint, he would scoff at this immediately. He knew himself to be troubled in soul, poor and imperfect. We are not saints as a result of some virtue in and of ourselves. Saints are men and women who know themselves to be troubled in soul, poor and imperfect people who desperately cling to Christ and his sure and certain promises. As we get older (which Bonhoeffer never had a chance to do) we become ever more mindful of our sins, of our fallen nature, of our imperfect selves. Consequently, the more we are made aware of our sins and our awfulness the more and more we desire Christ and his holy absolution.

In this dark winter, we look forward more than anything to the celebration of Christmas and the coming of our Lord Christ. On Christmas Eve, we will sing “Silent Night” with our candles raised and for that three or four minutes all will be right with world. Politics, the loss of things we once loved, the unraveling of our culture, war, illness; all of that will be gone for that moment for us gathered in that old church on West Main Street in Ephrata. We sing that hymn with our Lord’s Gospel in our ears and the taste of our Lord’s body and blood upon our lips. Our sins are behind us and have been taken by Jesus. Our chaotic and dark world gone for the moment. There is only Jesus and his saints in the candlelight singing his praises. This is a foretaste of something greater that is coming. It is this sure and certain hope given to us by our Lord Christ that sustains us in these grey and latter days. Until then, we will keep watching and waiting with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and all the dear saints of the church of Jesus Christ.

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