One can scarcely find better Advent homilies than those of Martin Luther. Even in reading Christmas sermons by Luther you can feel his deep love for the gospel and his desire to make it known. You can almost hear his voice ring off the walls of the Wittenburg stadtkirche. Here are a few excerpts from several of his Advent sermons on Christmas Day, 1532.
“The angel said that Christ, born at Bethlehem, is not a terror-filled cause for sorrow, but great, comforting joy, for which a terrified heart wishes and yearns. …A troubled, sorrowful heart craves nothing more than peace and comfort, to know that it has a gracious God. And this joy, whereby the sorrowful heart has rest and peace, is so great that all the world’s joy reeks in comparison. For that reason poor consciences need to be preached to as the angel here preaches: ‘Hear me, one and all, who are miserable and sorrowful in heart, for I bring you a joyful tiding. You must not imagine that Christ is angry with you. For he did not come to earth and become man for that reason, that he might shove you into hell. Much less was he crucified and died for that purpose; instead, he came that you might have great joy in him.”
“It behooves us…to welcome him [Christ] with gladness, as the angel here [Luke 2] says, ‘For unto you a Savior is born.’ Is it not a great wonder than an angel from heaven comes to bring this message to mankind, that many thousand angels thereupon also rejoice, urging and preaching to us people to rejoice and embrace this graciousness with thanksgiving? We must write the words unto you with letters of fire into our hearts and welcome the Savior’s birth most gladly.”
“It is impossible for a human heart not to rejoice if indeed it believes that it has a Savior from sin, death, and all evil.”
“Before all else these angels [again – in Luke 2] want the world to know the precious Savior, Christ the Lord. All wisdom in heaven and earth reaches its ultimate and eternal purpose in this child. Here God draws near to us, and he is to be found no other way.”
“My trust, boast, and joy…will not be in money or skills, but in the dear child lying at the Virgin’s bosom, my Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son.”
In reading these sermons we get the impression that Luther was captivated by the Christmas story. On the one hand he couldn’t find the words to preach about the greatness of the incarnation and on the other hand he couldn’t find enough words to do so!
[Above quotes taken from volume 5 of The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther (Grand Rapids, Baker, 2000).