Luther’s Christmas Sermons: Nativity and Shepherds, pt.1

We enjoyed a good start to our Advent study last week.  This week we will continue with Martin Luther’s Christmas Book and look at his sermons on the Nativity and the Shepherds.  In preparation for this evening, please read Luke 2:1-7.  Luther begins his sermon on the Nativity with a focus on Joseph’s obedience to the “heathen government.”  Unlike the more radical reformers, Luther saw an important role for the civil government to control our lesser nature. A good summary of Luther’s opinion on civil government is HERE. Luther’s teaching will become known as the Doctrine of Two Kingdoms – one kingdom ruled by the righteousness of Christ and the other kingdom ruled by the sword of the state to keep us in line when righteousness fails.  Based upon Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:13-17, Luther will teach that both kingdoms derive their legitimacy and authority from God.

As Luther moves into the Nativity itself, allow yourself to be drawn into the story as Luther retells it.  As we looked at several years ago with Kenneth Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Jesus probably wasn’t born in a barn but simply on the ground floor of a typical Palestinian peasant’s house.  Although Luther’s historicity may be off, nonetheless see how Luther juxtaposes the glory of the Incarnate God with the lowliness of his surroundings, and how the baseness of those surroundings blind almost everyone to the miracle that has occurred.  This sermon brings out a reoccurring theme in Luther’s Christmas sermons that just as contemporaries failed to identify the Baby Jesus for who he was because of his low socio-economic standing, so too do we often fail to see the image of God in those of a lesser social standing as well.

Dinner is at 6. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here, and please bring a friend.

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 52:2-3

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