WHAT THE ANGELS ANNOUNCED AND PREACHED TO THE SHEPHERDS-Conclusion

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

27. Now it is impossible for us here on earth to fully understand and exhaust the meaning of this message. Life is too narrow really, Our heart to small, for us to be able to apprehend, let alone comprehend, this tremendous joy. For one’s heart really to be able to embrace it, would cause it to burst and die. Experience tells of how some people even die from fright and sorrow, some because of great joy. In like manner this gladness is so great that were the human heart fully able to assimilate it, body and soul would be torn apart and the person would expire.

28. Now even though we are unable fully to grasp and comprehend this joy, we should at least partake of its fruit by becoming kinder, gentler people who bear our neighbor no grudge, yes, do good even to our enemies, remembering the role model that God himself became man. But we see how feebly things go with us, also as regards the fruit that ought to follow, let alone that such gladness should fully reign in our heart and be fully understood. The greater part of mankind continues with the old Adam: envy, hatred, and other evil vices, a sure indication that the [angel’s] message is not actually believed, or at best feebly, otherwise some minimal fruit would at least result, even though we did not fully appreciate it.

29. The stronger the faith is, however, the more joyous will be a person’s perception of this overwhelming grace. It is impossible for a human heart not to rejoice, if indeed it believes that it has a Saviour from sin, death, and all evil. Surely a person who has found a physician who can cure his fever, disease, and personal ailment, will rejoice; yes, with thanks he will promise the dear doctor that he will never forget his good help. He has heartfelt gratitude fro the wellbeing he feels in his body. Surely rejoicing must be even greater when from the heart he believes that a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, has been born for him, to provide him genuine security against sin and everlasting death. The greatest number of people, however, seek after another kind of joy, one that provides tranquility, recreation, and pleasure here and now; but not for one moment are they free from anxiety. It illustrates how like a dream we receive this very joyous message and then snore away. The dear angels preach and sing indeed, but we godless people sleep on, with the treasure before our eyes and ears, but paying it no attention.

30. Now then the smart aleck who hears that word and finds no joy in it may in truth regard himself to be a lost individual. What after all will cause a heart to be joyful, if it cannot rejoice over the angel’s message, Unto you a Saviour is born? Whoever is not changed for the better by this word and made more godly, praising and thanking God; whoever does not relish this heavenly wine, nor have his heart warmed by this fire, to become kinder and gentler to his neighbor, him will the judge and hangman make more pious, for he’s beyond reprieve. The fact that he’s not set ablaze by this fire nor drawn by this heavenly wine–that Christ is our brother, yes, has become flesh and blood with us–plainly shows that he is a lost and condemned man. Accordingly, let it be a negative rebuff against our coldness and torpid resistance, causing us to pray from the heart for his grace, that by the Holy Ghost he might change our heart and help us.

31. The angel thereupon delineates further what sort of Saviour he is, namely, “Christ the Lord.” The sermon is short but it compresses the entire Holy Scripture in one bundle. Were a man to try to delineate it all, it would take him longer and he would need to cite the witness of the prophets about this child’s birth. In other words, when the angel says this Saviour born to you is “Christ the Lord,” he means that he is the Saviour whom the patriarchs and prophets foretold and whom with all their hearts they yearned to see. They well understood that he was to come, but they did not live to see his coming. But now the Saviour himself, Christ and Lord, has been born.

32. Christ himself states this fact to the Jews (John 8:56): “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” What indeed would Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the fathers and prophets have done if they had lived long enough to see that Christ had been born? With longing they prophesied concerning him and rejoiced exceedingly about his coming. They were consumed with anticipation, while we are frozen stiff with ingratitude and disdain.

33. This very Christ and Lord has now been born, the angel tells the shepherds. He will put all things in order, freely bestowing the gift of righteousness, everlasting life, and salvation which were lost as a result of sin, and making heaven and earth new and at peace again. The Lord and everlasting Sovereign is born! Be comforted and undaunted, be brave and glad, renewed in courage by him, for it is not Joshua or David whom you have, but the one and only Saviour, who is Christ and Lord indeed. He will not cast you into hell, but rescue you: nor judge and condemn you because of sin but will forgive you your sins: nor be angry with you, but will greet you with friendly laughter. he is your brother and kinsman, and on top of it, your Saviour, King, and Lord; he dies for you, redeems you from sin, death, and the devil. Whoever finds no joy in his birth, nor thanks God for it, belongs to the devil.

34. So much in brief concerning the angel’s sermon. Let each one search his own heart whether he rejoices because of it and whether he loves his neighbor. if he finds no gladness is it, he should know that he is a lost and condemned man. Whoever rejoices over it and love his neighbor, let him thank God and pray that his joy might increase, becoming ever more complete. Amen.

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