The Nativity of our Lord, Christmas Day
Based on John 1:1-18
Martin Luther wrote:
Among all the gifts the gift of the Word of God is the most valuable. For if you take this away, it is like taking the sun away from the earth. For if the Word were removed, what would the world be but a hell and mere realm of Satan…For only the Word keeps a joyful conscience, a gracious God, and all of religion, since out of the Word, as from a spring, flows our entire religion. Without the Word and Christ the world would not continue to exist for one moment. Therefore though there are many great gifts of God in the world…yet the one which includes and sustains all the others is the Word, which proclaims that God is merciful and promises forgiveness of sins and life everlasting (Exposition on Psalm 122 in 1531).
While Christmas Eve finds us kneeling at the manger, pondering the birth of the baby, Jesus, Christmas Day is traditionally focused on the Word of God, and what it means that this Word entered our world to bring light and life. Truly, as Luther says, God created all that exists by His powerful, life-giving Word, and the world would not continue to exist for one moment without His Word. Though there have been many gifts given and shared this Christmas morning, though there are many great gifts of God in the world, dear Dr. Luther reminds us that the greatest gift, the one which includes and sustains all others is the Word, which proclaims that God is merciful and promises forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.
It has been a joy to walk with you through Advent, sharing the Word of God and these devotions. May your Christmas be even more joyful and the coming year find you living ever more deeply in the Word of God, in the Word made flesh, and so in God’s grace and peace.
May Almighty God bless you and keep you, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This year’s devotional was prepared by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism. To learn more about Blessed is He Who Comes, visit thenalc.org/advent.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
52:7 How delightful it is to see approaching over the mountains
the feet of a messenger who announces peace,
a messenger who brings good news, who announces deliverance,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
8Listen, your watchmen shout;
in unison they shout for joy,
for they see with their very own eyes
the Lord’s return to Zion.
9In unison give a joyful shout,
O ruins of Jerusalem!
For the Lord consoles his people;
he protects Jerusalem.
10The Lord reveals his royal power
in the sight of all the nations;
the entire earth sees
our God deliver.(NET Bible)
2:1 Why do the nations rebel?
Why are the countries devising plots that will fail?
2The kings of the earth form a united front;
the rulers collaborate
against the Lord and his anointed king.
3They say, “Let’s tear off the shackles they’ve put on us!
Let’s free ourselves from their ropes!”
4The one enthroned in heaven laughs in disgust;
the Lord taunts them.
5Then he angrily speaks to them
and terrifies them in his rage, saying,
6 “I myself have installed my king
on Zion, my holy hill.”
7The king says, “I will announce the Lord’s decree. He said to me:
‘You are my son! This very day I have become your father!
and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,
the ends of the earth as your personal property.
9You will break them with an iron scepter;
you will smash them like a potter’s jar!’”
10So now, you kings, do what is wise;
you rulers of the earth, submit to correction!
11Serve the Lord in fear!
Repent in terror!
12Give sincere homage!
Otherwise he will be angry,
and you will die because of your behavior,
when his anger quickly ignites.
How blessed are all who take shelter in him!(NET Bible)
1:1 After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, 2in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world. 3The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word, and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. 4Thus he became so far better than the angels as he has inherited a name superior to theirs.
5For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my son! Today I have fathered you”? And in another place he says, “I will be his father and he will be my son.” 6But when he again brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all the angels of God worship him!” (NET Bible)
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. 2The Word was with God in the beginning. 3All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. 5And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.
6A man came, sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that everyone might believe through him. 8He himself was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. 9The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was created by him, but the world did not recognize him. 11He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. 12But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name – he has given the right to become God’s children 13– children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.
14Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. 15John testified about him and shouted out, “This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am, because he existed before me.’” 16For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. 17For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known.(NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
[Luther writes]: “If I am to examine the spirit I must have the Word of God; this must be the rule, the touchstone, the lapis lydius, the light by means of which I can see what is black and what white.” … “ is is decisive; it does not matter what name he [the preacher] has, if he only teaches faithfully … has the Word of God as a plumb line.” … “What then, will you do? Will you condemn them? No, I do not want to condemn Benedictum and others, but I will take their books and go with them to Christ and his Word as the touchstone and compare the two.” … “If one says, the church or the bishops decided this, then answer: Come, let us go to the touchstone and let us measure with the right yard- stick and examine whether it agrees with the Pater Noster and with the Articles of Faith and whether he also preach forgiveness of sins. If it agrees with what Christ taught us, then let us accept it and do according to it.” (81)
[Luther writes:] “Paul takes them all together, himself, an angel from heaven, teachers upon earth, and masters of all kinds, and subjects them to the holy Scripture. Scripture must reign as queen (haec regina debet dominari), her all must obey and be subject to. Not teachers, judges, or arbiters over her, but they must be simple witnesses, pupils and confessors of it, whether they may be the Pope or Luther or Augustine or Paul or an angel from heaven” … —“I let you cry in your hostility that Scripture contradicts itself, ascribing righteousness now to faith and then to works. It is impossible that Scripture contradict itself; it only seems so to foolish, coarse, and hardened hypocrites” … — “We abandon the talk of the Jews and stick to St. Paul’s understanding which, not without cause, emphasizes the little word ‘seed’ and thereby indicates that Holy Scripture in Gen. 12:3 and 22:18 speaks of a single seed not of many, and says plainly that Christ is such seed. Paul does so out of a genuine apostolic spirit and understanding. We Christians do not care if such interpretation does not please the Jews. Paul’s interpretation weighs more with us than all glosses of the rabbis” … — “One letter, even a single tittle of Scripture means more to us than heaven and earth. Therefore we cannot permit even the most minute change.” (82–83)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.