Reading the Season: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s God is in the Manger

Reading the Season is an annual post on Ripple Effects in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Christmas festivities. An interlude to find rest and to ponder on the reason for the season. Lately, I reread the popular fiction All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; my mind is haunted by the horrors of a world war raged by a madman. And then I came across this book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God is in the Manger: Reflections of Advent and Christmas. What a timely discovery!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor and theologian in WWII Germany. A brilliant intellectual who received his doctorate from the University of Berlin at age 21, Bonhoeffer bravely stood against Hitler, involved in the Resistance, captured, imprisoned, and paid the ultimate price. He was hanged at the Flossenbürg prison on April 9, 1945, just two weeks before the Allies marched in, and three weeks before Hitler took his own life.

Here are a few excerpts from Bonhoeffer’s God is in the Manger:

The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty… Living without mystery means knowing nothing of the mystery of our own life, nothing of the mystery of another person, nothing of the mystery of the world… It means remaining on the surface, taking the world seriously only to the extent that it can be calculated and exploited, and not going beyond the world of calculation and exploitation. Living without mystery means not seeing the crucial processes of life at all and even denying them.

Replace the word mystery with miracle…


Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous… God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.


God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment.


For the great and powerful of this world, there are only two places in which their courage fails them, of which they are afraid deep in their souls from which they shy away. These are the manger and the cross of Jesus Christ.

And you think he’s intense and serious, well, yes he is, brilliant in insights and brave to speak truth to power. But from his other writings, there’s also humour, equally enlightening. Here’s a quote taken from Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. (Click on the link to my read-along post)

If you board the wrong train it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction.

Have a restful and joyous Christmas Season!


Reading the Season in Previous Years:

2021: Sabbath Poems by Wendell Berry

2020: Jack by Marilynne Robinson

2019: ‘A Hidden Life’ – A Film for the Season

2018: A Verse from Madeleine L’Engle’s The Irrational Season

2017: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

2016: Silence by Shusaku Endo

2015: The Book of Ruth

2014: Lila by Marilynne Robinson

2013: Poetry by Madeleine L’Engle

2012: Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis

2011: Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle 

2010: A Widening Light by Luci Shaw

2009: The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle

2008: The Bible and the New York Times by Fleming Rutledge 

2008: A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

14 thoughts on “Reading the Season: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s God is in the Manger”

  1. Thanks for reminding me we have this book on our bookshelf. I read it a few years ago but I’m pulling it out again and will re-read portions now. Love that quote from the Metaxas’ book about Bonhoeffer. That book was a very worthwhile book to read. Merry Christmas to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wondered what you’d choose for Reading the Season this year, and this is a fine choice. As sometimes happens, we’ve taken similar tracks. Even though my current post is focused on Santa Claus, my last line seems related: ” the line between wonder and miracle can be exceedingly thin.”

    I laughed at that last quotation, and appreciated the rest. As for another issue of the day, I wondered if you’d seen this article. There’s a faint hint of miracle there, too.


      1. As a matter of fact, I was suspicious about that site just now and I googled that name and found it to be on media alert. Anyway, I like to see people trying to wean from social media. I only have a blog and on Twitter. But with the recent new ownership, I’m thinking of closing my Twitter account. That leaves me with only one social media presence, that’s Ripple Effects, and I’m fine with that.
        As for Bonhoeffer, he was a most courageous man of faith. His writings of course aren’t just for the Christmas season.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m sticking with Twitter, but my interest is purely functional. I don’t tweet, but I follow about a dozen weather-related sites. During a flood or a hurricane, it’s the best way to get fast information about what’s happening, without having to jump from site to site. I’ve stopped using radio or television for weather news; they’ve all become far more fond of click-baity headlines than a just-the-facts approach.


          1. I can totally understand. I used to read tweets from film critics and some scholars and writers. But haven’t been lately and feel I can find info elsewhere. But for you, I can see weather is of prime importance. 😉

            Liked by 1 person

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