To follow up on yesterday’s post about the Hallelujah chorus, I wanted to share the musings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologian that has impacted me tremendously. Bonhoeffer frequently wrote on the high cost of following Jesus, ultimately losing his life in the heroic stand against Hitler in WWII.
When early Christianity spoke of the return of the Lord Jesus, they thought of a great day of judgment. Even though this thought may appear to us to be taken extremely seriously. When we hear Jesus knocking, our conscience first of all pricks us: Are we rightly prepared? Is our heart capable of becoming God’s dwelling place? Thus Advent becomes a time of self-examination. “Put the desires of your heart in order, O human beings!”, as the old song sings.
It is very remarkable that we face the thought that God is coming so calmly, whereas previously people trembled at the day of God, whereas the world fell into trembling when Jesus Christ walked over the earth. That is why we find it so strange when we see the marks of God in the world so often together with the marks of human suffering, with the marks of the cross on Golgotha. 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 everyone who has a conscience.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Watch for the Light
While the first Advent of Jesus was in a stable near Bethlehem, the second Advent of Jesus will usher in the Kingdom of God and the day of judgment. As Handel reminds us in the Messiah, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.”