Preached rightly, the Gospel does not change, but is timeless. 486 years later the Word preached should still apply to us today, otherwise it is not the Gospel of God. Below are some excerpts of a sermon preached by Martin Luther on Christmas Eve 1525. Luther addresses the Gospel hidden in the Christmas story, in the shepherds, the manger, the proclamation of Christ to the World from heaven itself. He notes that Christ must be preached in every proclamation of the Gospel — Christ for YOU and for ME, Christ for SINNERS. Christ must become ours and we His before we can take those steps forward in service to our neighbor to do any good work. And no work is good either if it does not benefit my neighbor. This is still the work of Christ, my work that is. For just as Christ serves me, so I serve my neighbor in the same way Christ does, giving everything in service to my neighbor.
May the peace, love, and joy of the Christmas season be yours, in Christ for YOU!
The Mysteries Hidden in the Gospel of Christmas Eve, Luke 2:1-14
Excerpts from the 1525 Christmas Eve Sermon of Martin Luther
Faith – What is to be Believed
Christ For YOU
The first matter is the faith which is truly to be perceived in all the words of God. This faith does not merely consist in believing that this story is true, as it is written. For that does not avail anything, because everyone, even the damned, believe that. Concerning faith, Scripture and God’s word do not teach that it is a natural work, without grace. Rather the faith that is the right one, rich in grace, demanded by God’s word and deed, is that you firmly believe Christ is born for you and that his birth is yours, and come to pass for your benefit. For the Gospel teaches that Christ was born for our sake and that he did everything and suffered all things for our sake, just as the angel says here: “I announce to you a great joy which will come to all people; for to you is born this day a Savior who is Christ the Lord” [Luke 2:10–11]. From these words you see clearly that he was born for us.
He does not simply say: “Christ is born,” but: “for you is he born.” Again, he does not say: “I announce a joy,” but: “to you do I announce a great joy.” Again, this joy will not remain in Christ, but is for all people. A damned or a wicked man does not have this faith, nor can he have it. For the right foundation of all salvation which unites Christ and the believing heart in this manner is that everything they have individually becomes something they hold in common. What is it that they have?
Yesterday marked the beginning of a new church year. Advent, the season is named. Advent means “coming,” and points toward the Second Coming of our Lord Christ. Ironically, in the northern hemisphere, the season begins as death moves over the land. Leaves fall from the trees; the winds blow; the temperature drops. Animals retreat into warrens, burrows and dens to sleep for the winter. Crops are harvested and stored for future use. The land is barren, desolate. Nothing grows. Yet in this physical space and time, we are called to remembrance. The season begins with a warning from our Lord to watch, wait and pray. The times will be desperate, there will be trials and tribulations. Wars and rumors of wars. These are but the beginning of the signs of the end, culminating in that great and terrible day of the Lord.
Immediately following this warning, we are met with the last prophet of the Old Covenant, John, Jesus’ cousin. He calls us to repentance and faith. He prepares the way for Jesus preaching a baptism of repentance to receive the forgiveness of sins. In much the same way the law prepares our hearts for grace and the gift of faith which we receive from the incarnate Word. From there, it moves to the divine announcement of the coming of our Savior in the flesh. Gabriel visits the young maiden, Mary, betrothed to Joseph to proclaim the Good News of God’s gracious plan for salvation of the world. Mary, a woman, would be God’s chosen instrument to bring that Life into the world. All of this leads to the Feast of Christmas, the second highest and feast day in the church year.
Lessons from the Shepherds on the Beginning of the Life of a Christian
On this Christmas Day we bring back into the present, the incarnation of our Lord, Jesus Christ. He was first greeted by the lowly shepherds who heard the Word of God proclaimed to them by angels. They heralded this birth an a majestic display of God’s glory in the deep of night, as the shepherds watched over their flocks on the cold Judean hillsides surrounding Bethlehem. Martin Luther wrote about the beginning of the Christian life that these humble, lowly shepherds exemplified in his Kirchepostils, Church Postils, written during his exile in the Wartburg Castle between 1521 and 1522. From them, we learn how God’s Word works on us, and then in and through us. There is power in the Word of God, as it goes forth and does its mighty work. It is this Word that produces fruit, and works signs and wonders. The text of the following sermon from Dr. Luther , The Early Sermon for Christmas Day on the Gospel of Luke 2:[15-20] is taken from Luther’s Works, Vol. 52: Sermons II, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, 52:iii-40 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1974).
THE GOSPEL FOR THE EARLY CHRISTMAS SERVICE, LUKE 2[:15–20]
This Gospel can be understood quite easily from the interpretation of the preceding one; for it contains an example and carrying out of the teaching which is contained in the previous lesson in that the shepherds did and found what the angels had told them. So the content of the present lesson deals with the consequences and fruits of the word of God and the signs by which we recognize whether the word of God is in us and has been effective.
The first and chief item is faith. If these shepherds had not believed the angel, they would not have gone to Bethlehem nor would they have done any of the things which are related of them in the shepherds. Continue Reading