The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin was built as a symbol of peace under Prince Frederick William II of Prussia between 1788 and 1791. It was but one of the gates through which the city of Berlin once was entered (all other gates don’t exist anymore).
After World War II and the division of Germany, the Brandenburg Gate became a Cold War symbol, and a symbol of a torn nation. It then stood on no man’s land (later also called the ‘death strip’) on the Eastern German side, and the infamous Berlin Wall was built around it in 1961.
Then, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall started to come down. This was the first step to Germany’s reunification. A few weeks later, the Brandenburg Gate was prepared for an official re-opening, which was attended by the leaders of East and West Germany, Hans Modrow and Helmut Kohl, and the mayors of East and West Berlin. Modrow said in a speech that the Brandenburg Gate ‘must be a gate of peace’ once more. For the first time in 30 years, crowds from east and west walked through the historic gate; thus effectively the division between East and West Germany ended. A people torn apart was reunited. Not only the gate was opened that day; a whole nation was liberated.
I think this wonderful event in history is very fitting for the Christmas season. The re-opening of the Brandenburg Gate reminds me of a verse in the carol ‘Let All Together Praise Our God’ (ELW 287). This carol does not only describe what happened at the birth of Christ, but it also talks about the consequences of the Christmas miracle. In verse 6, we hear, ‘Unlock the door again today that leads to paradise; the angel bars the way no more, to God let praises rise!’
Christmas is that mysterious sphere were heaven and earth touch. Christmas is that time when God comes among us and becomes one of us to reconcile all creation with God-self. Whatever separates us from God is overcome in the manger. The door, the gate to paradise, to the realm where God and creation live and walk closely together, is open once more. Christ comes among us so that we may be re-unified with God.
So, indeed, let praises rise to God, as the gate is wide open, and we are invited to walk through it and enter the kingdom of God.
And so, as John describes his vision of the new Jerusalem, a Jerusalem which reminds a lot of paradise, in the Book of Revelation, we hear:
“I saw not temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of the God is its light, and its lamp is the lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there. People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.” Revelations 21:22-26, NRSV
God be blessed and praised for the gift of God’s Son. Merry Christmas to you all!
This post is also available in: German