8th Day of Christmas: Martin Luther, from “The Story of the Birth of Jesus and the Angels’ Song”

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January 1: Martin Luther, from “The Story of the Birth of Jesus and the Angels’ Song”

Where Christ and the Gospel are there is the fruitful Bethlehem and the thankful Judea. There every one has enough in Christ, and overflows with thanksgiving for the divine grace. But while men are thankful for human teachings, they can not satisfy, but leave a barren land and deadly hunger. No heart can ever be satisfied unless it bears Christ rightly proclaimed in the Gospel. In this a man comes to Bethlehem and finds him, he also comes to and remains in Judea and thanks his God eternally; here he is satisfied, here God receives his praise and confession, while outside of the Gospel there is nothing but thanklessness and starvation.

But the angel shows most clearly that nothing is to be preached in Christendom except the Gospel, he takes upon himself the office of a preacher of the Gospel. He does not say, I preach to you, but “glad tidings I bring to you”. I am an Evangelist and my word is an evangel, good news. The meaning of the word Gospel is, a good, joyful message, that is preached in the New Testament. Of what does the Gospel testify? Listen! the angel says: “I bring you glad tidings of great joy”, my Gospel speaks of great joy. Where is it? Hear again: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”.

Behold here what the Gospel is, namely, a joyful sermon concerning Christ, our Saviour. Whoever preaches him rightly, preaches the Gospel of pure joy. How is it possible for man to hear of greater joy than that Christ has given to him as his own? He does not only say Christ is born, but he makes his birth our own by saying, to you a Savior.

Therefore the Gospel does not only teach the history concerning Christ; but it enables all who believe it to receive it as their own, which is the way the Gospel operates, as has just been set forth. Of what benefit would it be to me if Christ had been born a thousand times, and it would daily be sung into my ears in a most lovely manner, if I were never to hear that he was born for me and was to be my very own? If the voice gives forth this pleasant sound, even if it be in homely phrase, my heart listens with joy for it is a lovely sound which penetrates the soul. If now there were any thing else to be preached, the evangelical angel and the angelic evangelist would certainly have touched upon it.

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Dr. Jonathan A. Powers is Assistant Professor of Worship Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, where he shares his passion for the intersection of liturgy and spiritual formation in the life of the church. Jonathan is the author of 12 Days of Christmas Sermons, and co-author with Jason Jackson and Teddy Ray of Echo: A Catechism for Discipleship in the Ancient Tradition, both published by Seedbed. He and his wife Faith have two daughters.

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