“Nativity” Sermon / Luke 2:4–7 / Abridged and adapted from a Christmas Sermon by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther / Sunday December 15th 2019 / Season Of Advent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese - Abridged and Adapted from a Christmas Sermon by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther / Sunday December 17th 2017: Advent / Luke 2:4–7 "Nativity"
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. How simply did these events so heralded in heaven, long promised and planned for, take place! On earth in those days it happened like this: There was a poor young wife Mary of Nazareth, among the least regarded of the citizens of her town. So little esteemed, was she, that none noticed the great wonder that she carried. She was silent, did not make much of herself, but served her husband who himself had no workers in his employ. That day they simply walked out the front door and left town. They were on their way to Bethlehem for the Roman Census to be registered. Did anyone take notice as they slipped away? And how did they go? Perhaps they had a donkey for Mary to ride upon, the Gospels say nothing about it, and we may well believe that she went on foot. Think how she was treated in the inns along the way, she who might well have been taken to Bethlehem in a golden carriage decked out with the best of everything. And how many great ladies and their daughters all over the Empire, in those days, lived in luxury, while the mother of God, on foot, in midwinter trudged her weight across the fields? How unequal it all was, how unfair.
The journey was certainly more than a day from Nazareth in Galilee to that little town of Bethlehem which meekly lay next to the famous and important city of Jerusalem. Joseph had likely thought “when we get to Bethlehem we shall be among relatives and can borrow everything we need!” Fine idea that was!
Bad enough that a young bride, married less than a year, could not have had her baby at home in Nazareth in her own house instead of making all that journey for three days when she was heavy with child, so very pregnant! How much worse again, that when she arrived there was no room for her. The inn was full. No one would release a room to this pregnant woman. She had to go to a cow stall, a barn; the place set aside for the animals, and there bring forth The Maker of all creatures both great and small because no one would give way.
“And so it was, that while they were there, the days were accomplish that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger.”
And as Christ Jesus was born that day, in the city of David, these folks of Bethlehem did not recognize what God was doing in the stable, in the barn, the place set aside for the animals. Yes though they all went about eating and drinking, stuffing themselves in their fine parties, where even criminals along with everyone else lounged around like lords and ladies in their houses and in their inns, in truth God had left them empty of the true comfort and treasure which was hidden from them on that night. Oh what a dark night it was in Bethlehem that this Light should not have been seen by all. Thus God shows that He has no regard for what the World is and has and does. Their fine parities and self-importance do not impress our Heavenly Father. And likewise the World shows that it does not know, or consider, what God is, and has, and does. The patience, kindness, and steadfast fulfilment of the promises of God in His love don’t much impress the World either. I ask you today; dose the patience, kindness, and steadfast love that God shows for you in your condition impress you? Or are you as unimpressed as the word around you?
Joseph had to do his best, and might well have asked some young girl to fetch water or something else, but we do not read that anyone came to help. If they heard that a young wife was lying in the cow stall giving birth no one gave heed, no one took any time to come and help. Shame on you wretched Bethlehem! You deserve to be burnt to ashes by fire and brimstone for how poorly you treated Mary and her Child.
Now there are many of you in this congregation who think to yourselves, “If only I had been there! How quick I would've been to help the baby! I would've washed His linens, and helped change His diapers! How happy I would've been to go with the shepherds to see the little Lord Jesus lying in the manger asleep on the hay!” Yes you would. You say that because you know how great the Christ Child is. But if you had been there at that time you would've done no better than the people of Bethlehem. Childish and silly thoughts are these! Why don't you do it now? You have Christ in your neighbour. You want to serve Him? Then remember and take to heart: What you do for your neighbour in need, you do to the Lord Christ Himself.
How about the birth? The birth was still more pitiful. No one regarded this young wife bringing forth her firstborn. No one took her condition to heart. No one noticed that in a strange place she had not the very least thing needful for childbirth. There she was without preparation: No light, no fire, in the dead of night, in thick darkness. I think to myself, if Joseph and Mary had realized that her time was so close they might perhaps have been tempted to have her stay behind in Nazareth with a neighbour. But no such luck, there she was, there they were, and now think what could she use for swaddling clothes? Some garment she could spare, perhaps her veil? What could they have found in that rough place? By the grace of God they found Him something for Scripture teaches us that she wrapped the little Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, why not in the cradle, or on a bench; Well because they had no cradle, or bench, or table, or board, or anything else whatsoever except that cold stone manger of the oxen, that held their feed. Outside of the Virgin Mary’s womb that manger was the first throne of this King.
There in a stable lay The Creator of the entire World, and there was the young maiden around 15 years old who brought forth her firstborn without water, fire, light, pot or pan, a site for tears. What Mary and Joseph did next, nobody knows. The scholars say they adored Him. They must've marvelled that this Christ was the Son of God. He was also a real human being. Those who say that the Virgin Mary was not a real mother lose all the joy. He was a true baby, flesh, blood, hands and legs, ten little fingers, ten little toes. He slept, He cried, and did everything else that any baby does only without sin.
Think, women, there was no one there to bathe the babe, no warm water nor even cold. No fire, no light, the mother was herself both midwife and mother in labour. The cold manger was the bed and the bathtub. Who showed the poor girl what to do? She never had a baby before. I am amazed that the little one did not freeze. For these reasons, dear ones, don’t think of Mary like some statue of her you may have seen, don’t make the Virgin Mary out to be like one made of stone or marble! The whole situation must've gone straight to her heart that she was so abandoned. She was flesh and blood and must have felt miserable, and Joseph too, that she was left in this way, all alone, with no one to help but her husband, in a strange town, in the middle of winter. Her eyes were likely moist even though she was happy and aware of the greatness of the day, even though she knew that the baby was the Son of God and the Saviour of the World. No, she was not made of stone; for the more people are in the favour of God, the more tender hearted are they. Yes the Virgin Mary took all these things to heart and pondered them; for she was, and is, His very mother …
Let us meditate upon the Nativity, upon this birth of Christ Jesus, thinking back on what we saw, remembering how it happened in our own families, (yes and for those who have yet to have a baby of your own think back to how your mother would have looked down on your little face the day you were born). I would not have you contemplate the deity of Christ, the majesty of Christ, this is naturally what we would like to do when we think of Jesus’ birth; no today I would rather you think upon His flesh. Looking upon the baby Jesus’ divinity may terrify mankind, His inexpressible majesty would crush us, that is why Christ took on our humanity, every last bit of it except without the original sin born through time from Adam and Eve to you and me; He did so, He came in this way all flesh and blood as we all are, in part, so that He should not terrify, but rather that with love and favour He should console and comfort and soothe us.
Behold Christ lying in the lap of his young mother, who was indeed still a virgin. What can be sweeter than the Babe, what more lovely than the mother! Look at the child, knowing nothing; yet all that is belongs to Him, and take heart that your conscience should not fear but instead take comfort in Him. Doubt nothing. Watch Him bounce on the lap of the maiden: Laugh with Him. 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 in such a moment for nothing is more appealing to the tender hearted than a baby. Do you live your life in fear? Are you afraid of something today? Then come to Him lying in the lap of the fairest and sweetest maiden, and you will see how great the unassuming divine goodness is which is seated there above all things. Do not despair. Trust Him! Trust Him! Here is the Child in whom salvation rests. To me there is no greater consolation given to mankind than this: That Christ became man, a child, a babe playing in the lap of His gracious mother who nursed Him with tender love and care. Who is there who could look upon such a sight and not find comfort? In this same Jesus the power of sin and death, hell and broken consciences, along with guilt and shame, is all overcome and done away with when you come to this gurgling baby and believe that He, born in the City of David, all those many long years ago came not to judge you, but to save you from the darkness of the World and from yourself, from your faults and failures, from all your sins: that in His little hands and feet, His precious side and upon his tiny head rests the promised forgiveness and rescue we all desperately need. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 The Martin Luther Christmas Book, Translated & arranged by Roland H. Bainton Fortress Press 1948, pg 36-40.