In 1928, Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave an Advent sermon that connects well with this passage. In it he said this: “It is very remarkable that we face the thought that God is coming, so calmly, whereas previously peoples trembled at the day of God . . . We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for every one who has a conscience.
“Only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love.”
What do you think it means for God to lay claim to us? To what extent do you agree that the coming of God should be frightening to everyone who has a conscience? What areas of your life need to be “purified” or “refined” before the light of Christ can shine in its full glory? Offer a prayer of confession and find hope in God’s assurance of pardon.