From the Word
7 And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:7–11, RSV
Faith comes first, and it is proper that we recognize it as the most important in every word of God. The right and gracious faith which God demands is, that you firmly believe that Christ is born for you, and that his birth took place for your welfare. The gospel teaches that Christ was born, and that he did and suffered everything in our behalf. It is not simply said, Christ is born, but to you he is born. The right ground of salvation which unites Christ and the believing heart is that they have all things in common. But what have they?
Christ has a pure, innocent and holy birth. Man has an unclean, sinful and condemned birth. David says: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Nothing can help this unholy birth except the pure birth of Christ. But Christ’s birth cannot be distributed in a material sense, neither would that avail anything; it is imparted spiritually through the Word; it is given to all who firmly believe, so that no harm will come to them because of their impure birth. In this way we are cleansed from the miserable birth we have from Adam. For this purpose Christ willed to be born, that through him we might be born again. Christ takes our birth from us and absorbs it in his birth, and grants us his, that in it we might become pure and holy, so that every Christian may rejoice and glory in Christ’s birth. Whoever does not believe this, or doubts, is no Christian.
O, this is the great joy of which the angel speaks. This is the comfort and exceeding goodness of God that, if a man believes this, he can boast of the treasure that Mary is his rightful mother, Christ his brother, and God his father. But this cannot occur except through the faith that teaches us rightly to understand the gospel and properly to lay hold of it. This is the only way that Christ can be rightly known so that the conscience is satisfied and made to rejoice. Out of this grow love and praise to God who in Christ has bestowed upon us such unspeakable gifts. This gives courage to suffer everything that is well pleasing to God.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 452–453.