REFORMATION’S EFFECT ON APPRECIATION
OF CHRISTMAS BLESSING
“God has stooped to speak heavenly truths in human words, so that
we might know the riches of His grace…”
The nature of such a publication as the Spokesman requires that articles be submitted well in advance of their appearance. Hence this Christmas message is being written in the season of Reformation. Writing for Christmas season in the season of the Reformation nevertheless reminds one of the close link between the events that are celebrated by us as Lutherans.
The birth of Christ, celebrated each Christmas season, stands on its own. The birth of our Savior and all that it means is the greatest single event in human history. From the promise of the Savior to the fulfillment of His birth, from the manger to the cross, from the empty tomb to the ascension, there are many common threads. One is that the God of Love is the faithful God. The days of this evil world are winding down, yet the Christian looks forward to the future with confidence. He who has fulfilled every promise relating to faith and salvation in the past will fulfill those yet to come to pass. He who sent His only Son to redeem the world, will deliver all from every evil work all who believe.
But how do we know this, except through the Word of God! It is for that very reason Satan attacks faith in the Word, that very Word of God which was proclaimed in the open again in and after the Reformation. Luther said: “Man must have the Word of God and cling to it by faith. As soon as he allows this to be taken away from him, he is lost and helpless. . . . If he has brought a man to doubt whether it really is the Word of God, then he (Satan) has won the game” (What Luther Says, Vol. 3, p. 1491, #4819).
What does Scripture say? We read in John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Said Luther: “I would probably be as shrewd as any heretic if I wanted to criticize these words: ‘the Word was made flesh.’ Here one must believe, not see, measure, or comprehend” (WLS, Vol. 1, P. 150, #448).
This Christmas season we hear again the wonderful words of God spoken through the angels to the shepherds: “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:11). Soon after Christmas we will begin the consideration of Lent, follow- ing the Savior to Calvary, and observing all that He did and bore in our place that we might be reconciled unto God.
Even as Jesus in His humiliation cloaked Himself in our flesh and became man, yet without sin, so the Word of God, too heavenly for human expression, nevertheless is cloaked in words we speak. God reveals the mystery of salvation through the external Word, Luther said. God has stooped to speak heavenly truths in human words, so that we might know the riches of His grace which otherwise would remain hidden from us. We cannot separate the Word from Christ, or Christ from the Word, and still have Christmas, much less the blessing of Christmas.
As brethren we wish to one another all the blessings of this blessed season of our Savior’s birth. Most assuredly this wish comes from this office to all who read these words. May the peace of God be with you all. This peace which passed all understanding, however, Luther did not know until he searched and studied the Word of God. So, even as we wish all the peace of God in Christ Jesus, we as earnestly pray that each of us will stay in the Word, faithfully hear the Word, and with confidence confess the Word without which neither the message of Christmas or its blessed effect has meaning.
Christ first, and then Reformation. Without Christmas there had been no Reformation; with the Reformation the message of Christmas — salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus alone — would have remained a deep, dark secret. This Christmas season, thank the Lord for both, and enjoy the blessings of both!
— Pastor Daniel Fleischer