It’s no secret that one of my favorite writers is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. When Burk and I were first dating he gave me Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison for my birthday; I love it and will often open it to re-read one of his profound poems or his wedding sermon. I found again the letter he wrote while imprisoned on Christmas in 1943. A little background on the man behind the poem before I share it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor in Germany and when the Nazis took power he was one of the few pastors who continued preaching the truth of the gospel instead of the government approved version; he also was part of an underground group who were plotting to assasinate Hitler, upon being discovered he was imprisoned which ended with his final freedom in death by hanging. As we celebrate Christmas in the warmth of our homes, surrounded by friends and family, and fill our bellies with food, may we remember our brothers and sisters who do not have such external gifts, and yet are celebrating with us because they have the only gift that cannot be taken, the gift of hope brought by a God who loves us.
O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray
And to concentrate my thoughts on you;
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
But you know the way for me.
O Heavenly Father,
I praise and thank you
For the peace of the night;
I praise and thank you for this new day;
I praise and thank you for all your goodness
and faithfulness throughout my life.
You have granted me many blessings;
Now let me also accept what is hard
from your hand.
You will lay on me no more
than I can bear.
You make all things work together for good
for your children.
Lord Jesus Christ,
You were poor
and in distress, a captive and forsaken as I am
You know all man’s troubles;
You abide with me
when all men fail me;
You remember and seek me;
It is your will that I should know you
and turn to you.
Lord, I hear your call and follow;
O Holy Spirit,
Give me faith that will protect me
from despair, from passions, and from vice;
Give me such love for God and men
as will blot all hatred and bitterness;
Give me the hope that will deliver me
from fear and faint-heartedness.
O holy and merciful God,
my Creator and Redeemer,
my Judge and Saviour,
You know me and all that I do.
You hate and punish evil without respect of persons
in this world and the next;
You forgive the sins of those
who sincerely pray for forgiveness;
You love goodness, and reward it on this earth
with a clear conscience
and in the world to come,
with a crown of righteousness.
I remember in your presence all my loved ones,
my fellow-prisoners, and all who in this house
perform their hard service;
Lord, have mercy.
Restore me to liberty,
and enable me to live now
that I may answer before you and before men.
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised.
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer–Christmas 1943