Saturday, December 17, 2011

God is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God is in the Manger 
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Pub 8/30/10
by Westminster John Knox Press
Rec'd via NetGalley for my honest review.
Currently Reading

    "There are only two places where the powerful and great in this world lose their courage, tremble in the depths of their souls, and become truly afraid. These are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ."
"No priest, no theologian stood at the cradle of Bethlehem. And yet, all Christian theology finds its beginnings in the miracle of miracles, that God became human." 
These stirring words are among forty devotions that guide and inspire readers as they move thematically through the weeks of Advent and Christmas, from waiting and mystery to redemption, incarnation, and joy. Supplemented by an informative introduction, short excerpts from Bonhoeffer's letters, and passages from his Christmas sermons, these daily devotions are timeless and moving reminders of the true gift of Christmas.

This is not your average Christmas devotional. This book does not bounce through the events leading up to and following the birth of Jesus like I expected from a book subtitled "Reflections on advent and Christmas".

For one, the writing is heavy, deep, originally written in the 1940's in German by someone who stood up against Hitler's control of Germany at the time. Some of the insights in this book come from the writer's experience in prison, where he was hanged at 39 years of age, less than three weeks before Hitler committed suicide. 

There are 40 devotionals altogether, 4 weeks preceding Christmas day and 12 days after. Each week has a theme, each day a short excerpt from a sermon, a snippet of a letter (like to his fiance), & related Scripture. I found the layout very easy to use.

The content is remarkable. The first week is about "Waiting", for example. "For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in a storm but according to the divine laws of sprouting, growing, and becoming."

Other themes are Mystery, Redemption & Incarnation. Altogether these devotionals expand the expectation and celebration of the Advent and Christmas. 

Did I agree with everything Bonhoeffer said? No, actually. But even where I disagreed, I was provoked to thought about why and how. His opinions are strong coming from his hard experience, but the small, devotional doses are just right. It's not a book full of ideas to swallow hole, it's a book to enter with your brain turned on (as I say to my kids) to examine what the Bible says, what you believe, and a readiness to celebrate Jesus as never before.

My Rating:  4.5 -  Good book for your library, to read & reference over and over.