2nd Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 40:1-5,09-11
2 Peter 3:8-14
Mark 1:1-8

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the renowed Lutheran pastor, preacher, and theologian, was one of the most outspoken Christian voices raised in opposition against Adolph Hitler and the Nazis during World War II. His adamant resistance led to his arrest in April 1943 and his execution two years later. He was thirty-nine.

Shortly before his arrest, Bonhoeffer became engaged to Maria von Wedmeyer. During the two years of his incarceration, Dietrich and Maria exchanged hundreds of letters. Facing his first Christmas in prison in 1943, Dietrich wrote to his beloved Maria: "A prison cell like this, in which one watches and hopes and performs this or that ultimately insignificant task, and in which one is wholly dependent on the door's being open from outside, is a far from inappropriate metaphor for Advent."

In another letter, Bonhoeffer wrote of celebrating Christmas in his new circumstances:
          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 emptier our hands,
          the better we understand what Luther meant bby his dying words, "We're all beggars, it's true."
          The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ's
          home on earth.

From a prison cell, a young pastor proclaims the uncompromising hope and unconditional love of Advent. Christ comes to release us from the fears, doubts, cynicism, and despair that imprison us; his Gospel of compassion and forgiveness are the keys to the cell doors.

These days of Advent also invite us to embrace the poverty of the Christ Child who comes to illuminate the poor stables of our own lives with the light of God's hope and grace. Before God we are all "beggars" who have been given the gift of life, not because of anything we have done to merit it, but only because of the limitless love of God. In embracing Christ's emptiness to become of us, may we make of our homes and hearts a dwelling place for the God who comes with compassion that heals and peace that liberates.

Meditation: What gift can you give to another person that comes from your "poverty" rather than your wealth?

Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus, and release us from our prisons of fear and disappointment; fill our empty spirits with your compassion and grace. May forgiveness and reconciliation be the gifts we give this Christmas; may justice and charity be the songs we sing to welcome your birth in our midst.

from "Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2011-12" by Jay V. Cormier