Advent Reflection Week 3

This Advent I have been using God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas from Dietrich Bonhoeffer as my Advent devotional. The third week has centered around Redemption and what it means for, in Jesus Christ and the baby born in Bethlehem, our redemption to draw near. Included this week was an excerpt from a sermon Bonhoeffer preached when he was serving a church in London in 1933 that confronted how I approach the redemption that is coming in Jesus Christ.

Most times I think of the redemption offered in Jesus as strictly spiritual. God comes in Jesus to set my soul at peace. But apart from Jesus I could live a relatively healthy and happy life. I also think of the redemption offered in Jesus as deeply personal. When God comes into the world, I view the coming redemption as involving myself and other individuals. Bonhoeffer’s illustration helpfully reframes the urgency and the totality of the redemption that is coming near this Christmas. Preaching in London in 1933 Bonhoeffer said:

You know what a mine disaster is. In recent weeks we have had to read about one in the newspapers.

The moment even the most courageous miner has dreaded his whole life long is here. It is no use running into the walls; the silence all around him remains…The way out for him is blocked. He knows the people up there are working feverishly to reach the miners who are buried alive. Perhaps someone will be rescued, but here in the last shaft? An agonizing period of waiting and dying is all that remains.

But suddenly a noise that sounds like tapping and breaking in the rock can be heard. Unexpectedly, voices cry out, ‘Where are you, help is on the way!’ Then the disheartened miner picks himself up, his heart leaps, he shouts, ‘Here I am, come on through and help me! I’ll hold out until you come! Just come soon!’ A final, desperate hammer blow to his ear, now the rescue is near, just one more step and he is free.

We have spoken of Advent itself. That is how it is with the coming of Christ: ‘Look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is coming near.’

With mere days left in Advent, when we prepare for the coming of Jesus, one question remains: what is the nature of the redemption that draws near? Are you a mostly good person who would otherwise life a decent life apart from the coming near of our God? Or are you trapped in a mine shaft left with nothing but an agonizing period of waiting and dying? Does our sin trap us and ensnare us? Is our world cut off, lost in tragedy? And our only hope is the slow, courageous rescue mission offered to us by our God in Jesus Christ?

And is redemption offered only to us? Only to individuals? Or is there a communal aspect to the redemption offered in Jesus? Is all of creation trapped in the mine shaft? Are we all doomed? Is our only hope coming to us in a baby born in a manger?

These are important questions for us to meditate on as we approach the coming of our Lord and Savior on Christmas day. As we await the celebration of the birth of Immanuel, our God with us, what are we expecting? What are we anticipating? For what purpose are we lifting our heads?

As we hear the tap tapping of Advent, as we hear the voice cry out in the darkness declaring help is on the way let us stand up and with full voice say, “Here We Are! Come Through! Help Us! Come Quickly!”