Eager to work together more closely with the Hutterite Communities in North America, Eberhard Arnold traveled to Alberta in 1930. Transatlantic mail went only by ship in those days and usually took many weeks. Cables were expensive, and very rare. Although Eberhard wrote often to the fledgling community back at home, they often felt very far away and completely out of touch. The planned visit took longer than anyone had envisioned, and as Christmas approached Eberhard longed for home. While staying at a Hutterite colony in the Rocky Mountains he wrote this Advent letter. In its opening pages, Eberhard greets each individual on the Rhön Bruderhof personally, but he ends with words that still challenge and encourage today.
Rocky Mountains, November 26, 1930
…After these personal greetings I come now to what my letter is actually about. How I rejoice over the clear leading through the Holy Spirit, which you have experienced throughout all these months, as it has been given again and again through those who were appointed as tools for this by God and his church. You have stood with them in such faithfulness.…Therefore in the greatest trust and confidence I want to ask you now from my heart for the following:
Do not urge me to return home prematurely, because the whole success of all these great sacrifices may then be endangered. Trust your leadership that through God’s Spirit it will lead you in unanimity through everything. Be openhearted, open and full of willingness to one another. Rejoice in one another. You have every cause for this. In the same way as you are open and alert in the Spirit, preserve also your fine sensitivity for the purity and unity of the Spirit. But become free from all personal touchiness and keep free from it, from all concern about personal disadvantages, also in your tasks, duties, and services. There is not the least cause for it.
Rejoice in all your diversity over your unity in the Spirit and your real standing together, without wanting to equalize all special characteristics. Do not attempt to bring them all in line, to level them out and paralyze them, which would mean to dissolve and extinguish them. Community has life only in a living interplay. Therefore be glad that you are all different and never get irritated about it!
But selfishness and pettiness, talking behind the backs of others, envy and jealousy, fear and worry, and worse things do not belong at all to these differences of typical characteristics and various natural gifts. These enemies of life, like self-interest and self-will, are not gifts but utter loss and harm. But nobody has received so few gifts that he has to choose to become such a good-for-nothing by occupying himself with such harmful, worthless concerns. Every moment should be too precious to waste on such worthless and poisonous concerns.
I ask you, yes, I ask you most urgently – hold out all together for what will surely be just a short time still, in complete unity and in the love and joy of God. Do not waste even one single day, not even one hour, and certainly not a night, with matters, questions, or discussions that would not be necessary if we would all stand together more faithfully and firmly, more trustingly and thankfully. Or to say it more clearly: Spare yourselves such nights by seeing to it that nothing happens beforehand to make such discussions necessary.
Please, yes, I beg you most earnestly: Carry your great and sacred responsibility steadfastly like a burning light in your hands. For the sake of this warming, radiant light, do not allow yourselves to be jolted, shaken or perhaps overthrown! Then the mass of all your burning candles will shine across to me as in a Christmas vision, will strengthen me and bring me back with all you need. You know that the incarnation of the Word of the Creator and of his love, the word and deed of Jesus is, through the outpouring of his Spirit, the strength that enables you to do all these things.
…Do not allow anything, not the least little thing, to arise among you which is in any way against Jesus Christ, his redemption of the world, his smallness and humiliation and salvation in the manger and on the cross; against his discipleship on his way to human beings and to God, against his obedience to the words of his Sermon on the Mount, against his Spirit of complete unity and purity and working reality, truly poured out from now on. The Lord is the Spirit!
Only in the Spirit of unity can we experience the Christ of purity. Only in this way can we come to faith in the almighty God, the Creator of all worlds, suns, and earths, who has become our Father in Christ and in the outpoured Spirit of his church, to whom we belong and whom we trust to provide us with everything we need.
Published in A Joyful Pilgrimage (Farmington, PA: Plough, 1999).
Article edited for length and clarity.