The Golden Threads of God's Glory
Condemned as a traitor for his opposition to Hitler, Father Alfred Delp, a Jesuit priest, wrote an Advent sermon in a Nazi prison shortly before he was hanged in 1945.
In this sermon, he addressed the need to faithfully bear witness to the transforming and radical power of the love of God, who became one of us in Jesus to show us for all time what God is really like.
Delp was writing in perhaps the most miserable circumstances about the glory and hope found in Advent if we actively join God in God's restorative work in the world.
Here is a line from his Advent sermon that absolutely lit me on fire:
In the bitterness of awakening, in the helplessness of "coming to," in the wretchedness of realizing our limitations, the golden threads that pass between heaven and earth in these times reach us. These golden threads give the world a taste of the abundance it can have.
Delp had a front-row seat to the rise of the Nazis in Germany both before and during WW2. He watched seemingly upright Christians, including scores of church leaders, not only stand idly by while the extremes of fascism ruled the day, but in most cases, they also supported it.
His Advent sermon was a primer on being Christian when the world is turned upside down. One of the passages of Scripture that he quoted is from Paul's letter to the Ephesians:
“Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.”
Delp also acknowledged that when we wake up from the slumber of a lack of conscience and the blind infatuation of Christian nationalism, we finally can look around us to see the actual state of our world or our lives
We might be wondering what we could do to improve any of it, which is why Delp's words are so poignant and pointed. Like "golden threads," the glory of God makes its way to us when we need it most if only we have eyes to see.
It's our task as Christians who live in the space of Advent to point out these threads, make them known, and help others see them, too.
Christian nationalism and fascism seem to go hand in hand. For those who want to see a "return" to Christian values mandated by law, fascism is often the most tempting vehicle for it.
And so they turn a blind eye to all that comes with a fascist regime, just as countless Germans did during the Nazi era.
Fascism finds a willing partner in Christians who fall for this temptation. In fact, fascism tends to flourish when there is some sort of partnership with Religion, and there are always willing leaders who will all-too-easily carry the banner.
I find so much relevance in Delp's persuasive argument about the role of Christians during seasons of unrest. He declares that our job as followers of Jesus is to point to him and to fearlessly demonstrate that love wins.
Delp knew that he might die at any moment. He had been imprisoned for years, and even the war's end would not save him. In the 11th hour of the Nazi regime's ultimate demise, orders of execution were carried out against him and scores of other dissenters.
It's inspiring to think that even as he neared the end of his journey, Delp clung to the hope of Advent---that the dawn of a new world would shine, and the threads of God's glory would be seen by all.
Let's each, in our own way, strive to be the kind of followers of Jesus who spend the Advent season doing our best to point to light, hope, joy, and love.
Even though it might mean we're in the minority at times, we also ought to be speaking up and out about the ways Jesus is often eclipsed when Christians don't practice their faith the way they preach about it.
One of the main points of nearly every Epistle in the New Testament is to not let ourselves become assimilated by the Empire. There is always an Empire to resist, by the way.
Trust me on this: the Empire never likes it when people begin examining their faith, following Jesus more closely, and publicly sharing what they're discovering.
During this Advent season, let's raise our expectations about what God can do. Let's dedicate ourselves to sharing our God-sightings in the world around us.
Let's find the golden threads of God's glory here on earth and then tell the world about them. The presence of Christ in the world is not a story that was. Rather, it is a story that is and will be.
May you find your way through Advent with these words of hope and encouragement. May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, now and forever. Amen.