Dietrich Bonhoeffer spent Christmas of 1943 in prison where he’d been since April of that year. Most of you know the story — a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, member of the German Resistance movement against Nazism, and a founding member of the Confessing Church. Bonhoeffer had been arrested for his involvement in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler. As Christmas approached in 1943, he wrote the following in a letter to his parents:
For a Christian there is nothing peculiarly difficult about Christmas in a prison cell. I daresay it will have more meaning and will be observed with greater sincerity here in this prison than in places where all that survives of the feast is its name. That misery, suffering, povery, loneliness, helplessness, and guilt look very different to the eyes of God from what they do to man, that God should come down to the very place which men usually abhor, that Christ was born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn – these are things which a prisoner can understand better than anyone else. For him the Christmas story is glad tidings in a very real sense. And that faith gives him a part in the communion of saints, a fellowship transcending the bounds of time and space and reducing the months of confinement here to insignificance.
— from Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison
I may never know if I could have made it in a prison camp or not, but reading these words make me want to believe I could have handled it with the grace he did. I am grateful for his example. Merry Christmas…
Good words. I love to read anything from Bonhoeffer. God puts or allows us in difficult places for this reason. Seems like this is where faith comes alive and begins to grow.