During my years in parish ministry, the weeks of Advent were indeed a time of preparation. Sermon preparation, that is. One of the ways that I would prepare was to read the sermons and meditations of great teachers of the faith down through the centuries. I was always blessed by the Word as it was taught by the pen of Martin Luther and John Gerhard, in particular. Gerhard’s Sacred Meditations is a gem for pastors and laity alike to the read and ponder. As we once again reflect upon God’s promise of His messiah and the fulfillment of His prophecies in the birth of Christ, there is so much for which we marvel. The crude surroundings. The virgin birth. The faithful earthly father. The absence of the finery fit for a king. The unlikely first worshippers. God becoming a baby boy. For some two thousand years, preachers and poets have labored to describe their marvel at the Christmas story. Though you have heard the story and sung the hymns many times before and will hear a sermon that may not provide nothing “new,” you will once again be amazed at the Word made flesh as the Babe of Bethlehem.
Here is a portion of one of Luther’s reflections. He writes, “Look upon this Lord of Peace and your spirit will be at peace. See how God invites you in many ways. He places before you a babe with whom you may take refuge. You cannot fear him, for nothing is more appealing to man than a babe. Are you affrighted? Then come to him, lying in the lap of the fairest and sweetest maid. You will see how great is the divine goodness, which seeks above all else that you should not despair. Trust him! Trust him! Here is the Child in whom is salvation. To me there is no greater consolation given to mankind than this, that Christ became man, a child, a babe, playing in the lap and at the breasts of his most gracious mother. Who is there whom this sight would not comfort? Now is overcome the power of sin, death, hell, conscience, and guilt, if you come to judge this gurgling Babe and believe that he is come not to judge you, but to save.” (Martin Luther’s Christmas Book¸ p. 33)
Gerhard’s “The Mystery of the Incarnation” captures well the many facets of our Savior’s birth for which we can ponder. He writes, “O let us admire the marvelous goodness of our God, who, when we could not ascend to Him hesitated not to descend to us. Let us stand in wonder at the marvelous power of our God, who was able to unite in one two natures so diverse as the divine and human, so that one and the same Person is now both God and man. Let us admire the marvelous wisdom of our God, who could devise a scheme for our redemption, which neither angels, not men could have devised…Let us stand in wonder at this mystery, but let us not too curiously pry into it. Let us desire reverently to study it, although we cannot fully understand it.” (p. 80-81)
May the marvel of Christ’s birth bring you joy and hope always!