In lieu of a Christmas message of my own, I've reproduced below part of a sermon by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that moves me deeply. If you've read much Bonhoeffer you'll understand that this discourse is not typical for the cerebral Lutheran theologian, who died a Christian martyr for his role in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler near the end of World War II. Bonhoeffer was not an emotionally expressive person, yet obviously draws upon a reservoir of God's love himself in what he has written here.
Though the excerpt doesn't mention the famous "love" passage from 1 Corinthians 13, this must have been the impetus for the reflection. While this is not a conventional Christmas message, I believe love is the single word that best summarizes why God decided to come into our world through his son, Jesus Christ. It is through love alone that God acts through us, for the benefit of all people and all creation.
Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, und Frohe Weihnachten!
There will be just one thing in the end, and that is the love that was in our thoughts, worries, wishes, and hopes. Everything else ends and passes away--everything we did not think, and long for, out of love. All thoughts, all knowledge, all talk that has not love comes to an end--only love never ends.
Now if we are aware that something will come to an end, then it is probably not even worth starting. Life is too short and too serious for us to have time to waste, to spend on things that will only come to an end. Now and then we realize this for ourselves with shattering clarity. On New Year's or on our birthday, when we look back at what we have done during the past year or in the period of our lives just past, we are sometimes horrified to see that we have done nothing of lasting value. All our worries and efforts, all the things we have thought and said, have long since died away to nothing. Nothing is left--except perhaps an act of love, a loving thought, a hope for someone else, which may have occurred almost by chance, perhaps without even our being aware of it.
Where this is leading is clear: everything, all our knowledge, insight, thinking, and talking should in the end move toward and turn into love. For only what we think because of love, and in love, will remain, will never end.
Why must everything else come to an end, and why does only love never end? Because only in love does a person let go of himself or herself and give up his or her will, for the other person's benefit. Because love alone comes not from own self but from another self, from God's self. Because it is through love alone that God acts through us--whereas in everything else it is we ourselves who are at work; it is our thoughts, our speaking, our knowledge--but it is God's love. And what is ours comes to an end, all of it--but what is of God remains.
Because love is God's very self and God's will; that is why it never ends, it never doubts, it stays its course... It goes out to enemies as well as to friends, and it never abandons anyone, even when it is abandoned by everyone. Love follows after its beloved through guilt and disgrace and loneliness, all of which are no part of it; it is simply there and never ends. And it blesses every place it enters. Everywhere it goes, it finds imperfection and bears witness to perfection.
(From "The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer")