Bonhoeffer on the Theological Mystery at the Center of Christmas

Take a stroll through your local shopping mall this time of year, and you’ll see the word at least a few times.

Wonder.

It’s on advertisements, in Christmas songs, and on coffee cup sleeves. Of course, the  “wonder” of Christmas has become detached from its theological roots, floating into the ether of the secular imagination. But when Dietrich Bonhoeffer reflected on the wonder of the season, he planted it firmly in the soil of theology:

“No priest, no theologian stood at the cradle in Bethlehem. And yet all Christian theology has its origin in the wonder of all wonders, that God became man. . . . Theologia sacra arises from those on bended knees who do homage to the mystery of the divine child in the stall. Israel had no theology. She did not know God in the flesh. Without the holy night there is no theology. God revealed in the flesh, the God-man Jesus Christ, is the holy mystery which theology is appointed to guard.

What a mistake to think that it is the task of theology to unravel God’s mystery, to bring it down to the flat, ordinary human wisdom of experience and reason! It is the task of theology solely to preserve God’s wonder as wonder, to understand, to defend, to glorify God’s mystery as mystery.”

(Letter to the Finkenwalde Brothers, Christmas 1939)

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