The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness on them light has shined.
In the latter part of his theological career Karl Barth would preach to/for the inmates in the prison of Basel, Switzerland. When the public found out that he was doing so people reacted in a number of ways – some were amazed that the brilliant academic would humble himself to do such a thing while others believed that he was wasting his time among those who could no longer be helped.
And more than a few folk joked that the only way to hear Karl Barth preach would be to break the law and wind up in jail!
In 1954 Barth delivered the Christmas sermon to the inmates. I’ve made it a habit of reading the sermon around this time every year because it continues to blow me away. Karl Barth’s theology disrupted my life in all the best ways and to have the words that he shared with a group of prisoners half a century ago is nothing but grace upon grace.
In other words, the Good News of the gospel reminds us again and again that the real prison of life is found in each of our hearts, and God has offered deliverance to all of us captives.
Below you can find three paragraphs from Barth’s Christmas Eve sermon and as you read them I encourage you to rest in the knowledge that these words are for you.
“What does the word Savior convey? The Savior is he who brings us salvation, granting us all things needed and salutary. He is the helper, the liberator, the redeemer as no man, but God alone, can be and really is; he stands by us, he rescues us, he delivers us from the deadly plague. Now we live because he, the Savior, is with us.
“The Savior is also he who has wrought salvation free of charge, without our deserving and without our assistance, and without our paying the bill. All we are asked to do is stretch out our hands, to receive the gift, and be thankful.
“The Savior is he who brings salvation to all, without reservation or exception, simply because we all need him and because he is the Son of God who is the Father of us all. When he was made man, he became the brother of us all. To you this day is born a Savior, says the angel of the Lord. To you!”
Merry (almost) Christmas
And here are some tunes to put you in a decisively Christmas mood:
Sufjan Stevens – Christmas In The Room
May Erlewine – Anyway
Seabird – Joy To The World