WHAT THE ANGELS ANNOUNCED AND PREACHED TO THE SHEPHERDS-Part 3

By Martin Luther-Preached in the afternoon on Christmas Day at the parish Church, 1534.

18. Whoever rightly perceives this in his heart should, for the sake of the flesh and blood above at God’s right hand, hold dear all flesh and blood here on earth and be angry with none of his fellowmen. Simply looking at the manly nature of Christ, our God, should rightly make all hearts rejoice and spread kindness all around, so that no angry thought would evermore occur. By the same token, whoever has really grasped the picture in his heart that God’s Son became man can hardly have evil intentions in his heart towards the Lord Christ, but only good. For I know very well that I don’t relish being angry with myself or hurting myself. Now Christ is one with me, having flesh and blood like mine; so how could he possibly intend evil for himself, that is, towards us, who share his flesh and blood? That is why I do not fret over the devil’s vexing. When that picture reigns in the heart, then every instance of God’s avenging wrath, as with man’s fall into sin, or Sodom and Gomorrah, melts away. When we but think of this one man who is God and who has elevated our poor human nature by becoming man, God’s wrath vanishes.

19. As stated, are they not a derelict people who, though they hear this, nonetheless, willfully despise and disregard the treasure while they give attention to filling their pockets with money, building nice homes, and chasing after finery? It is, of course, the miserable devil who blinds their hearts so that they don’t even give a second thought to these glad tidings. You may be sure that wherever greed, grubbing, jealousy, and hatred are present, there is proof positive that the light of the angel’s message does not glow in their hearts but is extinguished.

20. For the present, as I have said, I am not speaking of the benefit and power of our redemption but only the birth of Christ itself, that he so honored our nature, our flesh and blood, by himself assuming it. By itself that should have melted our hearts and molded us into one cake as in the baker’s oven, igniting such ardor within us that we come to each other. But this is a message that goes in one ear and out the other, just as we go into church and come out again little changed. If we really embraced this picture with our eyes and hearts, a kinder, gentler person would result and we would say, How can I do hurt and wrong to that very nature which my God and Lord has so honored by himself becoming man? But the devil seeks to keep that from being preached, and where it already is being proclaimed, attempts to snatch it out of their hearts. The enthusiasts and the radical spirits dispute this with their arguments and ultimately lose the joy through their “wise” cogitations. And so the devil maintains his troops in the world, keeping the light from dawning, or quickly extinguishing it.

21. This is the one fact that ought to move us to great happiness and blessed self-esteem, that we have been so honored over all creatures, even the angels. We can truly boast: My flesh, my blood, sits at God’s right hand and rules over all things by his almighty hand. No other creature is so distinguished as is my flesh and blood, not even the angels. How can I, therefore, but love my neighbor and do good to him? Right there, however is where the devil works his spell, as we have said, spoiling our joy through other concerns, so that we don’t hold on to this picture in our hearts as we should. If we possessed nothing else than this privileged station, it would be cause to spring and dance.

22. But there’s more to this joy than that we are honored above the angels, for a Saviour is born for us. That really climaxes all. It goes far beyond the distinction and honor to our nature that the man Jesus also wants to be our Saviour. That is the chief point and greatest reason why we ought to be joyful. Those people are lost who neither know nor have heard this. But, as said earlier, much worse off are they who having heard and known still despise it. For these words melt heaven and earth together, make death into sugar, and turn all ills, of which there are plenty, into delectable wine. Where’s the man who could have conceived this, that a Saviour would be born to be our Redeemer? For that treasure was valid not only for the mother, the Virgin Mary, for her alone to possess in her motherhood, but for us all. “Unto you,” states the angel, “is born a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

23. The angle speaks to the shepherds; they were Jews and knew very well the meaning of “Saviour” in their language, that it signified Lord and King. But the greater part of the Jews erred on that point, thinking that Christ would be a Lord and King over a physical realm. That was not the meaning. The angle had something higher in mind, and so stated, “Unto you a Saviour is born.” In other words, till now you have been held captive by the devil in sin and death, plagued by him with water, fire, pestilence, and sword; indeed, who can tell all the evil? The whole of poor mankind lay under his tyranny, souls misled by idolatries and lies many more times than our bodies ravaged by the French disease (syphilis). Consequently, the poor, thirsty, weak body also had no rest from the devil; nor was eternal death far behind, with soul and body so afflicted. These are the devil’s arts and weapons. However, the angel says to you who now lie captive to this proud, shameless, evil, poisonous spirit, who is this world’s prince and god: A Saviour is born.

24. The little word “you” should make us glad. For to whom does the angel speak-to trees and stones? No, to people, and not to one or two, but to the whole human race. So what are we to conclude? Shall we continue to doubt the grace of God? and say, st. Peter and St. Paul might rejoice over the Saviour, but this noble, precious treasure does not belong to me, I will in turn ask, To whom does he then pertain? Did he come for the sake of geese, ducks, and cows? You forget who he is. Had he come for the sake of helping other creatures, he would have taken those creatures’ nature; but he became the Son of man exclusively.

25. Now then what are you? Who am I? Are we not all human beings? Yes, and who other than people are to receive this child? The angles have no need of him; the devil does not want him. We, however, need him, and for our sakes he became man. It behooves us, therefore, to welcome him with gladness, as the angel here says, For unto you a Saviour is born. Is it not a great wonder that an angel from heaven comes to bring this message to mankind, that many thousand angels thereupon also rejoice, urging and preaching to us people to rejoice over and embrace this graciousness with thanksgiving? We must write the words “unto you” with letters of fire into our hearts and welcome the Saviour’s birth most gladly.

26. The angel speaks with trenchant, passionate words, Unto you a Saviour is born, as though to say, I am not addressing wood or stone, but you people, you shepherds and people of earth for whom the Saviour is born. This birth is not meant for angels, nor for the sake of the mother’s motherhood, but for the sake of the poor, lost, and condemned mankind in the devil’s bondage, those subject to the devil’s derision and mockery. Should we not, therefore, embrace with thanksgiving this Saviour who was born for us? In him we not only have one united with us in nature, with our body and blood, but also a spiritual treasure far greater than physical glory, namely, our spiritual and eternal Saviour. Whoever perceives and believes this understands what it means to truly rejoice, yes, he virtually succumbs because of great joy.

Klug, Eugene F. A. Sermons of Martin Luther: The House Postils Vol 1. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996.

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5 Comments

Filed under Christmas, Luther, sermons

5 responses to “WHAT THE ANGELS ANNOUNCED AND PREACHED TO THE SHEPHERDS-Part 3

  1. J. Wendell

    Merry Christmas to the Weaver house!

    Good post what keen awareness this brother in Christ displayed, and what passion for our Lord.

    I do hope all is well with you this year.

    In His fellowship,
    Brother John

  2. Jeremy Weaver

    Merry Christmas to you and yours as well!

  3. Anonymous

    Merry Christmas!

  4. bluecollar

    Jeremy, Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    Mark

  5. BJ Scoggins

    God Bless you in the New Year.

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