Thursday, December 29, 2016

Anything But Silent

"...a multitude of the heavenly host [army] praising God" (Luke 2:13).

I'm with you.  I love to sing "Silent Night."  Not Christmas without it.  I'm just not sure where we got the idea.

The first Christmas was anything but silent.

For starters, the angel delivers a very powerful sermon: "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy..." (Luke 2:10).  Said Luther, "These are angelic words shouted down from heaven into this world; it is a message which, praise be to God forever, has also been made known to us."

Then the choir sings - the largest, loudest choir ever assembled.  The Greek word is "army."  Fitting, as God had declared war on sin, death, and devil.

Still want to go with "silent"?

Then the shepherds do nothing but talk, spread the good news, wake people up (who in turn begin to talk), and glorify and praise God.

And if we think about it, Christmas was the night God broke His silence.  The birth of His eternal Son was a deafening cry of the Divine Love.  And don't be deceived.  The Baby's breath was in reality the mighty roar of the Lion of Judah.

Still looking for silence and calm?  There is one place you will find it: the consciences of the repentant who because of Christ no longer must endure the accusation and condemnation of the Law and Satan.

There is in the Christian conscience now only peace and quiet.  And in the Christian heart only faith and joy.  A joy - a great joy - that sings with the angels and makes Christmas, again, anything but silent!

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Merry Martin Christmas (Part 3)

And here's the third.

"...good will toward men" (Luke 2:14).

In effect they are saying: It is our sincere desire that all men glorify God in the highest and that they live at peace with one another.  Unfortunately it is impossible for these conditions to exist at all times because many people pay no attention whatsoever to the Gospel.  They refuse to accept this Son of God.  Instead of that, they persecute both the Gospel and the Son.  May God, therefore, grant to the Christians a cheerful, joy-filled heart so that they will say: I have a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!  If people mistreat me and persecute me because of this Savior, I'll rejoice over that too.  I will maintain good cheer and joy in the midst of suffering.  That is the kind of heart the blessed angels desire for us Christians, so that we may have joy in the face of hatred and go on singing when the devil goes on a rampage.  The angels want us to be proud in Christ and in Him to defy all misfortune; and if the devil attacks us, that we mock and ridicule him by saying, Satan, you can only attack my body, my life, my property, and so on.  You might as well give up on that, too, Satan, for you cannot harm me since I have an eternal Savior, who will delight me with joy as a recompense for all my physical suffering here on earth.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Merry Martin Christmas (Part 2)

Here's the second.

If there was nothing more for us in the newborn child than that our human nature had been highly honored in that God who created us is now our kinsman, our nearest friend, our flesh and blood (I'll omit for the present to speak of His suffering and resurrection), it would be little wonder, if we, believing it from the heart, would become so dear to each other that, as the saying goes, we would consume each other with love.  If our hearts really perceived the greatness of this honor and we could say with firm faith, God is become man, would it be a wonder if we no longer were enemies with any man and surrendered our lives for each other?  The fact is you could not even hate or harm anyone in effigy who has body and soul like your God and mine.  Should we not, therefore, because of such glory with which God has elevated human nature above and beyond the angels, also love and do good to all people?

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Merry Martin Christmas

I sat down recently and, with a couple cups of coffee, read through a little collection of Christmas sermons preached by Martin Luther.  There were six sermons in all, preached between 1532 and 1534.  And I had an objective: to pick out three choice quotes and then to put them here for you to read.  Here's the first.  Check back next week and the week after for the second and third.

"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy..." (Luke 2:10).

If you wish to define Christ correctly and portray Him truly, who and what He is, then note carefully how the angel distinguishes and portrays Him, namely, that He is and is called, "Great Joy."  I personally learned this the hard way under the papacy, for no one ever taught me anything else than that Christ was a stern Judge who would pass judgment on me according to my deserts and works.  I was used to thinking at all times, therefore, how I might produce good works that I might reconcile Christ my Judge.  In no way could this be termed "Great Joy," and "Unto you is born this day a Savior," but rather the preaching of hellfire.  What was missing for me was that I could not name Christ rightly with the name the angel gave, "Great Joy," as He most surely also is: great, sweet, precious joy.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Repentance Is Imperative

"Repent" (Matt. 3:2).

"Repent" is the first great call of the Gospel.  It is the first word from the mouth of John the Baptist.  This could be why he wore what he did (camel's hair) and ate what he did (locusts and wild honey): to show and teach that there is something more important - vastly so - than food and clothing (Matt. 6:25).

Repentance.

Grammatically speaking, "Repent" is an imperative.  A command, an order.  Repentance is non-optional.  The only option is to disobey.  Grammatically speaking, "Repent" is a "present" imperative.  It means: "Be repenting, keep on repenting, don't stop repenting!"  It means a life of repentance.

Spiritually speaking, repentance is imperative.  If we are to "seek first the kingdom of God" (Matt. 6:33), we will find it only through repentance.

The 1530 Augsburg Confession contains a terse definition of repentance worth dusting off: "True repentance is nothing else than to have contrition and sorrow, or terror, on account of sin, and yet at the same time to believe the Gospel and absolution (namely, that sin has been forgiven and grace has been obtained through Christ), and this faith will comfort the heart and again set it at rest.  Amendment of life and the forsaking of sin should then follow, for these must be the fruits of repentance, as John says, 'Bear fruit that befits repentance' (Matt. 3:8)."

Now I know that repentance may seem out of place a couple of weeks before Christmas.  Like John himself, repentance is never in vogue.

Yet only the repentant will truly "find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12) on Christmas Night.