The following sermon is by Doctor Martin Luther.
We observe this festival in order to recognize Godís inestimable grace and to thank Him for the same. We should rejoice in this great miracle whereby God has graciously visited us poor mortals. He did not merely send an angel who might redeem us. He sent His only Son, who not only speaks with us to bring us such a message, but clothes Himself in flesh and blood and becomes a human. If a prince came to a group of beggars, desiring not only to give them money, but himself became a beggar, then the beggars could hardly rejoice enough because of his kindly goodness. Such a deed, however, cannot compare with the grace God has shown us by His Son becoming a human being. This, therefore, ought to make us happy and awaken in us heartfelt thanks toward our dear Lord God.
Cursed and damnable is the man who hears this, but does not believe or accept it with joy. Indeed, the Jews, the Turks, the Tartars, and the pope do not believe it but regard Godís sending of His Son to be little more than sending oneís servant for a beer. We Christians, however, should learn how greatly God has honored us by allowing His Son to become a human being. How could He have come closer to us? When I take my child up into m y arms and kiss him, people consider that to be very loving. God, however, does not do that. Instead He takes on the nature which I and all other humans have, becomes a human being, eats and drinks as you and I do. He is born of a young maiden, as you and I are born of our mothers. The only difference is that the Holy Spirit engineered this conception and birth, while in contrast we mortals are conceived and born in sin.
For this, we Christians should rejoice, that we have been so blessed. Our plight to be stained by sin and to be subject to death, brought on by Adamís fall into sin, stand in contrast to what has been done for us by Christ who became man to redeem us from sin and death.
The devil drew close to us, but not so close that he took on our nature. Even though he fell through arrogance and became separated from God, succeeding also to bring mortals to the same plight, yet he did not become a human, or draw as close to us as Godís Son, who became our flesh and blood.
This, then, should be for our comfort, and we should thank our Lord God from the heart that He has bestowed this honor upon us in that He permitted His Son to become man. Now our flesh and blood sits in heaven at the right hand of God; God and man in one person, reigning over heaven and earth. Blessed is the individual who believes and takes this to heart, that we humans are of a higher nature than the angels, who are the sublimest of creatures. The Epistle to the Hebrews highly extols this: ďFor unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. Ö For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren.Ē
The angelic nature is far more sublime and glorious than the human nature. Because of its great glory the angelic nature cannot live on earth. Now, Christ could have become an angel to be an individual who combined both godly and angelic nature, as divine and human nature are combined in Christ. But He did not wish to do that. God had prophesied to Abraham that of his lineage, Christ, Godís Son, would be born. He who would bring a blessing unto all the Gentiles would be born of a virgin, a daughter of Abraham and David. In this, Abrahamís lineage has been highly honored. But it pertains to us, too, even though we are Gentiles and not Abrahamís descendants according to the flesh, because the promise is that from Abrahamís seed all the Gentiles would be blessed. With this, we Gentiles, who are descendants of Adam and Noah, have the same promise which in time was repeated to Abraham. For that reason the promise and its fulfillment pertain to all people on earth.
We certainly must find great joy in Christís coming and in His becoming man. He did not come to us as a messenger with bad news, but united Himself with us in becoming true man, never again to be separated from us, now that He has assumed our human nature. He came to us in such a way that He can never again be separated from us. Even though now we do not see Him, it matters not. For He has said we should wait for the Day of Judgment; then we will see Him, that He is clothed in our flesh and blood, and that we have the same body as He has.
Over this we should rejoice and thank God. Whoever does not is an unfortunate human being. For this is such a great grace and glory that the angels might well be jealous that our Lord God ignored and passed them by not to assume their nature, but chose instead to accept our human nature, though we belonged to the devil. Whoever cleaves and holds to Christ has as much as He, because Christ, indeed, has shared His inheritance with us if we believe that we are now united with Him in joint estate. Even if the devil moves in on us, he cannot devour us because Christ became man in all things, like us except for sin. This selfsame Christ speaks to us in His Word: Remain in Me, I will not leave you. Just as the devil, death, and hell could not hold Me, so also they cannot hold you.
Today marks the day our salvation began, as Godís Son became man and the divine and human nature were united in one person. Those are unfortunate individuals who dispute and doubt that two natures, divine and human, coexist simultaneously in Christ. That is why we must avoid arguments here, for disputing will not avail us. In other matters one may argue, but in an article of faith one should let the arguing be. Here the bottom line is that he who clings to Godís mercy in simple faith and believes that Godís Son became man for us has the benefit of this, namely, eternal salvation. Whoever does not believe has just the opposite.
Today we celebrate this miracle, namely, the bonding of God with man, as the two natures, divine and human, are united, never again to be separated, as we confess in the Creed: ďI believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.Ē That ensued on this day. At Christmas we hear how Christ was born, but todayís significance is that the divine and human nature have come to be united in one person. This tiding the angel Gabriel announces as he tells the Virgin Mary that she shall conceive and bear a son who shall be called the Son of the Highest. He shall sit on the throne of David eternally and be a King above all Kings. These are mighty and very extraordinary words, and it is a great miracle that a young woman could believe such words. If today these words were told to a virgin, she would surely laugh because human nature is difficult and loath to believe Godís wondrous works. But Mary believed implicitly, not poking around for proof from reason.
It is true that she asked the angel how this could take place, but she did not question whether, according to reason, it would be possible. She merely asked whether for it to take place she was to marry a man. Then the angel answered, ďNo, the Holy Ghost will come upon you.Ē It was not wrong for her to ask, therefore, because she was betrothed to Joseph. She did not wish to defy convention and become an adulteress, to be reviled by the Jews, but wished to keep an honorable reputation. But when she heard that the Holy Ghost would come upon her, she was satisfied and asked no more, but gave the angel her consent. In that moment she became the mother of God.
These are the details of todayís celebration, as the articles of the Creed give it, in which we confess that our Lord God sent His only Son to us. We cannot send a messenger to Him, but He has come to us, personally. We, as monks, sent messengers to our Lord God trying to appease Him by our works. That was not right; rather, we are to believe that Godís Son came to us, became man, was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. Therefore, we should not conduct our worship as though we first approach our Lord God, instead of Him first coming to us.
This is so because, first of all, we are created by Him and through Him. Then, next, when we were lost and damned because of sin, we were saved through His coming, if we believe that He has become like us and that our human nature has been united with God. Now if I wish to approach God, I must go to the Virginís lap on which Christ lies, that is, I must listen to what the Christian faith teaches me, that Christ for my sake was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. When I embrace that and cleave to Christ, who was conceived and born for me, then I am on the right way to heaven, and Christ draws me to Himself. Even if the devil wants to devour me, I still remain safely where Christ is. The devil cannot hold me because Christ has come to me in flesh and blood as I have, but without sin. And therefore, because He came to me and took to Himself my flesh and blood, I must hold tightly to Him.
That is the fundamental teaching which shows us the way to heaven. We should not succumb to foolish works with which to reconcile God as we did under the papacy. Christ, first of all, came to us and that we must hold fast in firm faith. When I do come to faith in Him, then good works should follow Ė rightful fasting, rightful praying, and rightful giving of alms. Yet always I must remain firmly in Christ who alone gives me salvation, without my works or the merit of my deeds. That is what the Nicean Creed states: ďWho for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven.Ē It does not say that we came into heaven for His sake; rather, Christ came from heaven for our sake.
The devil forever and a day would very much like to have us stray from the right way. He knows very well that whoever believes in Christ will be saved. That is why he tries with might and main and all manner of tricks to mislead us. If he tears us from this article of faith, he has won. Whoever remains firm in this article of faith, cleaving firmly to Christ, tramples the devil under foot. Whoever falls away from Christ, him will the devil trample under foot.
May our dear God grant us His grace, so that we remain steadfast in this article of faith and through Christ are finally saved. Amen.
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