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This Advent, together with some friends and colleagues from my church, I’m reading a collection of Christmas essays and articles by Karl Barth. The collection gathers together Christmas meditation Barth wrote for German daily newspapers from 1926-1933. They’re the very best kind of public theology, articulating the mystery of the incarnate Christ for Protestants, Roman Catholics, German Jews, and secular Europeans. Barth wrote to a country spiraling from the comparative peace of the mid-twenties into depression, endemic unemployment, threats of civil war, and then eventual capitulation to looming Nazi dictatorship.
Against this dark backdrop, Barth’s meditations are all the more striking. In one of them, he evokes the astonishment of the Christmas good news:
“Even in general terms Christmas can only be understood as wonder… Can it really be true: God in our world, God in our world? The facts cry out against it, for they speak of God’s remoteness from the world and the world’s remoteness from God. It needs a confession of faith to recognize reconciliation as truth, a confession whose strength and weakness lies in the fact that it appeals only to revelation and that it can be made only by faith… [The revelation of God’s love at Christmas] is the Love in which God is the subject. It abides even though we pass on. It ‘bears all things’ even though we fail. It lives even though we die. That we are loved, is the event of this Love. Therefore this event must be… clearly marked as wonder.”
I was struck in reading this by the way in which, with so much gathering darkness all around, Barth witnessed to the sheer wonder of God’s enfleshed, cruciform Love in Christ.
This is why I think the work of the Reformed Journal is so important; in a moment when “they facts cry out” against the Christmas Gospel — whether those of politics or pandemics, racial injustice or rancor over our deep disagreements- more than ever, we need spaces for wonder, places for voices that witness to the audacious mystery of God’s Love in Christ.
I hope, this Advent season, you’ll consider donating as you’re able to contribute to the work of the Reformed Journal. We’re a lean, volunteer-run operation, and we don’t advertise, so we need your partnership to cover basic operational expenses and support the existence of this space that witnesses to the bottomless mystery of Love that we celebrate at Christmas.
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Thank you much for the Barth quote. Really a blessing.