Friday, December 28, 2007

Martin Luther's Christmas Book

Several weeks ago I checked out this title from our church library and forgot about it. Because of its seasonal topic I was only supposed to keep it one week! Now I'm reading it, and think it is so wonderful, I want to buy a copy. Luther's writing is timeless, and he wrote on every imaginable topic.

If I'm reading the publication data on the verso correctly, the editor, Roland H. Bainton, put it together with selected woodcuts from German artists of the era in 1948. This paperback is by Augsburg Fortress, 1997. Unfortunately, Bainton is a bit vague on where to find the originals, citing "the index to the sermon on the Gospels in the Weimar edition of Luther's works, vol. XXII," and suggests the stories are more beautiful in the original German. The back cover tells us that this little devotional contains 30 excerpts from Luther's Christmas sermons and that Bainton, a renowned Reformation scholar, translated and arranged them into eight topics. A reviewer at says that this represents 1/20th of what Luther preached and wrote about Christmas.

This is from the first chapter, "Annunciation."
    "Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a line of ancestors whom the Evangelist Matthew arranges with artistry into three groups of fourteen patriarchs, fouteen kings, and fourteen princes. Among the latter were a number of disreputable characters, as we learn from the book of Kings, and there were no savory women. God holds before us this mirror of sinners that we may know that he is sent to sinners, and from sinners is willing to be born."
So much of today's emphasis in evangelical churches is on Jesus as a friend and buddy, a close relationship, personal self-worth and happy, clappy, feel-good worship services, and service to God in order to feel good. Many of the songs are "I, me, my, mine" or "we, we, we." Luther never loses the awe and majesty of God come in the flesh, but also he doesn't let us forget why we need a savior. And as with all presentations of the Gospel, if you don't start with sin, you have no climax or ending either.

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