Christmas Eve – Sunday, December 24, 2017

December 24, 2017  

Throughout the year 2017 Christians have been celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. At the heart of our celebrations has been the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther. WE honor him this evening by remembering what he wrote about “The Nativity” of Jesus. His words are from his essay “The Nativity,” included in a collection of his writings known as The Martin Luther Christmas Book.

Luther wrote:

How unobtrusively and simply do those events take place on earth that are so heralded in heaven!

On earth it happened this[way]:

There was a poor young wife, Mary of Nazareth, among the meanest dwellers of the town, so little esteemed that none noticed the great wonder she carried. She was silent, did not want to vaunt herself, but served her husband, her had no…maid. They simply left the house. Perhaps they had a donkey for Mary to ride on, though the gospels say nothing about it and we may well believe she went on foot. Think how she was treated at the inns along the way, she who might well have been taken in a golden carriage! How many great ladies and their daughters there were in that time, living in luxury, while the Mother of God, on foot, in midwinter trudged her weight across fields!

Bad enough that… [Mary]… could not have had her baby at Nazareth in her own house instead of making all that journey of three days when heavy with child! How much worse that when she arrived there was no room for her! The inn was full. No one would release a room to this pregnant woman. She had to go to a cow stall and there bring forth the Maker of all creatures because nobody would give way…

They did not recognize what God was doing in the stable. With all their eating, drinking, and finery, God left them empty, and this comfort and treasure was hidden from them. Oh, what a dark night in Bethlehem that this light should not have been seen.

Thus God shows that god has no regard for what the world is and has and does. And the world shows that it does not know or consider what God is and has and does.

Luther wrote:

There are many of you in this congregation who think to yourselves: “If only I had been there! How quick I would have been to help the baby! I would have washed his linen. How happy I would have been to go with the shepherds to see the Lord lying in the manger!”

Yes, you would! You say that because you know how great Christ is, but if you had been there that time you would have done no better than the people of Bethlehem… Why don’t you do it now? You have Christ in your neighbor. You ought to serve [that person], for what you do to your neighbor in need you do to the Lord Christ himself.

The birth was even more pitiable…

There she was without preparation: no light, no fire, in the dead of night, in thick darkness. No one came to give… assistance.

She ‘wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.”

This was the first throne of this King. There in a stable… lay the Creator of the world.

What Mary and Joseph did next, nobody knows. The scholars say they adored. They must have marveled that this Child was the Son of God. He was also a real human being… He was a true baby, with flesh, blood, hands and legs. He slept, cried, and did everything else that a baby does…

Behold Christ lying in the lap of his young mother… What can be sweeter than the Babe, what more lovely than the Mother!

Look at the Child, knowing nothing. Yet all that is belongs to him, that your conscience should not fear but take comfort in him. Doubt nothing. Watch him springing in the lap of [his mother]. Laugh with him. Look upon this Lord of Peace and your spirit will be at peace. See how God invites you in many ways. God places before you a Babe with whom you may take refuge. You cannot fear him, for nothing is more appealing to people than a babe. Are you [frightened]? Then come to him… You will see how great is the diving goodness, which seeks above all else that you should not despair. Trust him! Trust him!

Here is the Child in whom is salvation. To me there is no greater consolation given to [humankind] than this, that Christ became human, a child, a babe, playing on the lap and at the breasts of his most gracious mother. Who is there whom this sight would not comfort? Now is overcome the power of sin, death, hell, conscience, and guilt, if you come to this gurgling Babe and believe that he is come, not to judge you, but to save.

So writes the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther in the 16th century.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.