A Merry Luther Christmas

Luther's commitment to write for "the low, humble people" was rooted in his own astonishment with the fact that Christ was born into an impoverished family in impoverished circumstances and lived an impoverished life.

“I have written not for those that are experienced but for the common people and those that have the Spirit, who are highly esteemed before God…I hope that I shall do enough if I uncover the purest and simplest sense of the Gospel as well as I can…in order that the Christian people may hear, instead of fables and dreams, the word of their God, unadulterated by human filth. For I promise nothing other than the pure, unalloyed sense of the Gospel suitable for the low, humble people.” (Luther, Church Postils, vol. 1, p. 7)

 

Of all the advent sermons I have read, none are so profound and moving as those preached by the great German Reformer, Martin Luther. Luther was accustomed to preaching in step with the liturgical calendar so as to focus on the chronology of the birth narratives. In the dedicatory section to Prince Frederick, the Elector, in his Church Postils (homilies), Luther explained his primary purpose in preaching of these sermons:

“I have written not for those that are experienced but for the common people and those that have the Spirit, who are highly esteemed before God…I hope that I shall do enough if I uncover the purest and simplest sense of the Gospel as well as I can…in order that the Christian people may hear, instead of fables and dreams, the word of their God, unadulterated by human filth. For I promise nothing other than the pure, unalloyed sense of the Gospel suitable for the low, humble people.” (Luther, Church Postils, vol. 1, p. 7)
Luther’s commitment to write for “the low, humble people” was rooted in his own astonishment with the fact that Christ was born into an impoverished family in impoverished circumstances and lived an impoverished life. This is evident from often Luther employs the word “poor”  throughout his advent sermons. Luther was, no doubt, tracing out the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 8:9, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” This theme permeates swaths of Luther’s house postils. For instance, In his advent sermon on Matt. 2:1-12, Luther explained why Bethlehem was the fitting birthplace for Christ. He wrote,

“He comes without pomp, without violence, without estate, without money, without sword and muskets. He disregards the great and mighty cities, Jerusalem the most holy, Rome the most powerful, and others of the kind, and chooses for His birth-place the poor and lowly Bethlehem, so that one might judge, from the very place of His birth, what a Governor He would be: poor and mean before the world, but rich in spirit and all heavenly gifts.” (Luther, House Postils, vol. 3, p. 202)

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