Sunday 5 December 2010

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Advent

I’m preparing to preach later this morning on biblical texts for the second week of advent – Malachi 3:1-4 and Luke 3:1-6.

In Malachi, the Lord promises to send a messenger ahead of his own coming to the temple when he will refine and purify it.

What precipitates this promise, as Malachi tells us in 2:17, is that the people are whinging! ‘Why does God allow evil? If he’s a good God, why don’t we see more evidence of his justice?’ The people want God to step in and exercise his power over evil; they want ‘justice’. But they don’t seem to realise that they might be included in God’s judgment when he comes!

Basically, be careful what you wish for...

In my preparation, I have happily stumbled across some excerpts from a 1928 Advent sermon preached by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who (though without reference to Malachi 3), riffs on this theme of judgment:

‘It is very remarkable that we face the thought that God is coming, so calmly, whereas previously peoples trembled at the day of God...

‘We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for every one who has a conscience...

‘Only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love.’

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Testament to Freedom: The Essential Writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ed. Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995), 185-186.

No comments: