Rev. Mike Fay

Last week I wrote about the season of Advent and the joy and the anxious between-time it is about.

More than anything during Advent, and especially this year, is our struggle with waiting. I am not just talking about Advent and the coming of Jesus Christ.

I am talking about waiting for loved ones to recover, for businesses to open, for favorite restaurants to reopen, for hugs, for safe family gatherings, for a vaccine (x2), for…

The Germany Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his parents a poem on Christmas 1944 while celebrating his 6th Advent of the war. He had been arrested and was awaiting “trial.” In essence, he was waiting to be killed. (He was executed on April 9, 1945, at an SS camp in northern Bavaria). 

I will quote the poem (taken from “Strange Glory, A life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer” by Charles Marsh) at length as it, to me, is emblematic of what Advent is about, “hope.” We need this more than ever.

Von Guten Mächten (From All Good Powers)

Be faithful, quiet powers of good surrounded

so wondrously consoled and sheltered here –

I wish to live these days with you in spirit

and with you enter into a new year.

The old year still would try our hearts to torment,

of evil times we still do bear the weight;

salvation for which you did us create.

And should you offer us the cup of suffering,

though heavy, brimming full and bitter brand,

we’ll thankfully accept it, never flinching,

from your good heart and your beloved hand.

But should you wish now once again to give us

the joys of this world and its glorious sun,

then we’ll recall anew what past times brought us

and then our life belongs to you alone.

The candles you have brought into our darkness,

let them today be burning warm and bright,

and if it’s possible, do reunite us!

We know your light is shining through the night.

When now the quiet deepens all around us,

O, let our ears that fullest sound amaze

of this, your world, invisibly expanding

as all your children sing high hymns of praise.

By powers of good so wondrously protected, 

we wait with confidence, befall what may.

God is with us at night and in the morning

and oh, most certainly on each new day.

Yet we are tired of waiting. This is not a “happy clappy” poem of Christmas, this is a heart-felt prayer of a man who knew he was awaiting death. 

Yet we know for our own safety we must persevere in our own waiting to avoid death. 

Look to the words of Bonhoeffer, which recognize hope is never lost while waiting: “give us the joys of this world and its glorious sun; then we’ll call anew what past times brought us; We know your light is shining through the night; we wait with confidence, befall what may.”

All this waiting has meaning. “Hope” is coming into the world, or as the Most. Rev. Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York and Primate of England, entitled his book: “Do Nothing: Christmas is Coming.” 

The Rev. Dr. Mike Fay is rector of Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Salida.

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