At Christmas we remember that the light of Jesus Christ shines in the darkness and the darkness has not quenched it … Let me share part of a letter written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a brilliant German theologian and leader of the Confessing Church in the 1930s which opposed Hitler and criticised the mainstream churches for their subservience to the Nazi regime. Bonhoeffer was arrested and imprisoned in 1943 for his part in a high-level plot to overthrow Hitler. He was executed in 1945 before Allied troops could release him.
“From the Christian point of view there is no special problem about Christmas in a prison cell. For many people in this building, it will probably be a more genuine occasion than in places where nothing but the name is kept. That misery, suffering, poverty, loneliness, helplessness and guilt mean something quite different in the eyes of God from what they mean in human judgement, that God will approach where we turn away, that Christ was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn – these are things that a prisoner can understand better than other people; for him they really are glad tidings”. (Letters and Papers from Prison, London: SCM Press).
Bonhoeffer’s witness shed a principled Christian light on a great evil, and although it cost him his life, his continuing example of living a Christ-like life helps us see the dimensions of Christian faith. We can be glad because all this world’s evil, pain and limitation has been taken into God’s life, transformed, and redeemed. After all, Jesus’s birth and infancy are but the beginning of a story that will unfold the depths to which God’s love has to go, and the profound generosity of his self-giving.