A Child Is Born Unto You

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:11-12)

Dr. Martin Luther published excellent preaching for the Christmas season.  While he addressed the nature of the Incarnation and birth of Christ, Luther also properly taught about justification by faith alone, good works, and daily life of Christians.  In a sermon for Christmas Day, he explained how Christians should understand the history and miraculous nature of Christ’s birth.  Here Luther described how Christ’s natural birth without the shame of sin demonstrated God’s divine graciousness:

How could God have shown His goodness more than that He sank Himself so deeply into flesh and blood, that He did not even despise the natural privacy but honored nature most highly where Adam and Eve brought it most miserably into shame?  From now on even that can be regarded as godly, honorable, and pure, which in all men is the most ungodly, shameful, and impure. [Luther’s Works, vol. 75, p. 213.]

After this description of the history and significance of Christ’s birth, Luther set forth how believers receive the effects of that miraculous event by faith.  They obtain the benefits of Christ’s holy birth through faith in God’s promise, proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds that the Savior was born for them.  God exchanges the believer’s sinful birth for Christ’s holy, innocent birth.  While God acts through the Incarnation of his Son in the womb of the Virgin Mary, Christians must receive it through faith in His Word.  Dr. Luther concludes:

Therefore, see to it that you do not find pleasure in the Gospel only as a history, for that does not last long; also not only as an example, for that does not stick without faith.  But see to it that you make this birth your own and trade places, so that you are freed from your birth and receive His.  This happens when you believe.  So sit in the lap of the Virgin Mary and be her dear child.  But you must exercise this faith and ask for it, because while you live you cannot establish it too firmly.  This is our foundation and inheritance, on which good works must be built. [Ibid., p. 216]

Dr. Luther often followed the proclamation of the Gospel with a description of the good works that follow true faith.  He did the same in this sermon.  The Christian takes Christ as his own through faith, then lowers himself to serve his neighbor. Faith receives God’s gift, love acts in obedience to God’s command for others.  In this manner, Christians should follow Christ as an example: “Here you see that He loved us and did everything for us in order that we may do that same, not for Him–for He does not need it–but for our neighbor.” [Ibid., p. 217]




About Dr. Matthew Phillips

My name is C. Matthew Phillips and I am an Associate Professor of History at Concordia University, Nebraska. I completed my Ph.D. in medieval European history at Saint Louis University in 2006. My research has focused on medieval monasticism, preaching, devotion to the True Cross, and the Crusades. Additionally, I have interests in medieval and early modern European education and the writings and life of Martin Luther.

At Concordia I teach World Civilization I, World Civilization II, Europe Since 1914, Early and Medieval Christianity, Renaissance and Reformation, The Medieval Crusades, The History of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, and The Modern Middle East.

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