At first, it was the gift that counted. We wanted to give gifts to the students in our Edge youth group that they would enjoy. And what do high school students enjoy most of all? Food. And so, we went with candy and hot chocolate mix and spoons made of peppermint. (I can still remember watching one student chug the hot chocolate mix directly from the package – no drink, no hot, just pure chocolate powder – classic!). But then, I decided, “Forget them and what they like! I want to give gifts that I like!” I love rocks; and so one year, I gave rocks with words printed on them and a card explaining why I chose that particular word for them. I love popcorn, and so one year I gave popcorn because popcorn is holy. And as you well know, I love good quotes; and so this year, I gave twelve fun quotes that could be the basis for a great philosophy of life and a harmonica because “without music, life would be a mistake” (Nietzsche). Here’s a quick sampling of some of the quotes (sorry, you will have to provide your own harmonica): “Never mind searching for who you are. Search for the person you aspire to be.” (I love that, especially for students! It’s from Robert Breault). “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.” (Brilliant! It’s from Friedrich Nietzsche). “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” (I love that even more than the line from Breault! It’s from Henry David Thoreau). “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” (Even more brilliant for students than perhaps Nietzsche’s line! It’s from Michelangelo). “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” (I love this most of all! It’s from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” (If you give a harmonica to someone, you should include a great quote about music. It’s from Bob Marley).
I have enjoyed this series because it has enabled me to look at Christmas through someone else’s eyes. It helps that those eyes belong to someone I really respect and admire. Marcel Proust said: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” This series has been a voyage of discovery because Bonhoeffer has given me the opportunity to see things with new eyes, and it has been nothing less than an eye-opening experience for me (and hopefully, in some ways, for you, too.) This week’s quotes continue in that tradition. These lines are from the section on “Incarnation” in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s God Is in the Manger (compiled and edited by Jana Riess; translated by OC Dean, Jr., Westminster John Knox Press, 2010).
- “Human beings become human because God became human, but human beings do not become God. They could not and cannot bring about that change in their form, but God himself changes his form into human form, so that human beings—though not becoming God—can become human.”
- “The infinite mercy of the almighty God comes to us, descends to us in the form of a child, his Son.”
- “Who is this God? This God is the one who became human as we became human. He is completely human. Therefore, nothing human is foreign to him. The human being that I am, Jesus Christ was also.”
- “If we want to participate in this Advent and Christmas event, we cannot simply sit there like spectators in a theater and enjoy all the friendly pictures. Rather, we must join in the action that is taking place and be drawn into this reversal of all things ourselves.”
- “If Jesus Christ is to be described as God, then we do not speak of his omnipotence and omniscience, but of his cradle and his cross.”
How then shall we leave this series? Bonhoeffer suggests silence at the thought that God would become human. He writes:
“’Mighty God’ is the name of this child. The child in the manger is none other than God himself. Nothing greater can be said: God became a child. In the Jesus child of Mary lives the almighty God. Wait a minute! Don’t speak; stop thinking! Stand still before this statement! God became a child! Here he is, poor like us, miserable and helpless like us, a person of flesh and blood like us, our brother. And yet, he is God; he is might. Where is the divinity, where is the might of the child? In the divine love in which he became like us. His poverty in the manger is his might. In the might of love, he overcomes sin and death, he forgives sin and awakens from the dead. Kneel down before this miserable manger, before this child of poor people, and repeat in faith the stammering words of the prophet: ‘Mighty God!’ And he will be your God and your might.”
What a gift to the church these words are from Bonhoeffer!
In this last week of Advent 2022, may God use these words to enrich your faith, to strengthen your worship and to increase your joy this Christmas. God bless and Merry Christmas!