“Trust life. We do not live it alone. God lives with us.” – Father Alfred Delp SJ, Christmas Eve, 1944, on the wall of his Nazi prison cell near Berlin.
Father Delp’s hands were shackled when he scratched that message into the Plotzensee prison wall just weeks before he was hanged. Vaguely, peripherally implicated in the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, the Catholic priest was offered freedom rather than execution if only he would denounce his Jesuit ordination.
Delp said no. Like all those jailed in the July 20 plot, in prison his hands remained shackled and in death his body was cremated, ashes broadcast in the wind. Delp’s earthly life ended, World War II ended, and Hitler’s Third Reich ended. But Delp’s testimony to God’s perpetual presence lives on. Whether amid the horror of war, the travail of daily life, the burden of sin or the insecurities of our often doubting, imminently interruptible faith, we do not live alone.
God lives with us, always.
We know this because of the incarnation of Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah: God become man. That’s what Delp knew. That’s the life Delp trusted as he faced evil, injustice, and death. He was not alone. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas.
Why share this not-so-merry Delp story during this wonderfully joyous Christmas week? As a caution. We too often separate what we know as the secular, sentimental, overflowing joy of Christmas – with its traditions, happy songs, fellowship, gifts and cheer – from the cosmically serious, magnificent, mystical meaning behind the temporal merriment: the eternal arrival of Christ to fix the consequential enormity of mankind’s fallen nature. Jesus saves because Jesus lives.
“Hurray for Baby Jesus. Now, can we please just open some presents?!?”
Certainly, it’s less intrusive not to contemplate the heavy theological significance of Christmas. A few quiet moments while listening to “Silent Night” masquerade as appropriate reverence. But even then we’re likely thinking about our personal Christmas history and experience, not the infinite weight of the Creator God Almighty entering human existence to enable our salvation from sin and fallenness.
We muse that “every day should be Christmas” to extend, continue and perpetuate the season’s kindness and giving. While laudable, “kindness and giving” miss the larger, truer point of the incarnation of Christ Jesus: we actually can have Christmas all the time because God is with us all the time. We should chase, embrace and face the Lordship of Jesus unceasingly. Christmas is sentimental, sure, because it’s entirely about our not being alone.
And in Christ, we never are. God is with us.
Walters (email@example.com) encourages you to receive God’s peace and companionship as you enjoy a thoughtful and Merry Christmas.