Waiting for the Gift

Screen Shot 2018-11-25 at 11.52.43 PMThe devil of commerce is behind Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Just prior to the Advent season, he distracts us from the truths of Nativity, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer articulated in a letter to his fiancée from prison on December 13, 1943: “God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment.” Nothing could be more opposite to the commercialization of Christmas than the idea of “wealth in poverty.” Our affluent society has given rise to the lie attributed to Malcolm Forbes, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” The New Yorker cartoon above is a trenchant rebuttal to the vulgar capitalist, and his impatient acquisition of material goods. More is not more. Wealth in poverty means less is more, which is why I need Advent, “a season of waiting,” which teaches me that Jesus Christ is the most good and perfect gift “coming down from the Father of heavenly lights” (James 1:17). I am poor, but He is rich. I cannot buy the Gift. I can only receive the Gift with a heart that waits, Advent to Advent, for “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” hidden therein (Col. 2:3). In the poverty of his prison cell, Bonhoeffer discovered, more acutely, the poverty of his own heart — a prerequisite to celebrating the Nativity. He says to his fiancée: “I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious; the emptier our hands, the better we understand what Luther meant by his dying words: ‘We’re beggars; it’s true.’ The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth.”

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