In 1933, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, at the age of 27, began his pastoral duties in two small German-speaking congregations in London. These were St. Paul's, a Reformed church located in Whitechapel in London's East End, and Syndenham in Forest Hill, south London. For 18 months Bonhoeffer preached each Sunday; then in the spring of 1935 he was asked by the leadership of the Confessing Church in Germany to return to his native country to accept a very significant assignment. He became the director of one of the five seminaries of the Confessing Church, first located in Zingst and eventually in Finkenwalde, near Stettin, high up on the Baltic Coast.
This Advent sermon was preached just six weeks after Bonhoeffer arrived in London. Adolf Hitler had been in power for almost a year. The course of Nazi dominance over Germany's political, economic, and social life had been launched with the following events:
- burning of the Reichstag building in February, followed by curtailment of free speech and assembly;
- one-day boycott of all Jewish businesses;
- institution of the Gestapo secret police;
- burning of books authored by non-Aryans;
- banning of all political parties except the Nazis;
- signing of the concordat between the Third Reich and the Vatican;
- election of Ludwig Muller as national bishop of the Protestant church;
- prohibition of pastors with Jewish ancestry from serving Protestant congregations;
- formation of the Pastors' Emergency Union;
- the November national elections that gave Hitler 92 per cent of the vote.