Dear Friends in Christ:
Over the centuries people have puzzled over the great mysteries of the Christian faith. In modern times the most difficult to accept has perhaps been the resurrection. The idea that someone dead could live, that there could be life beyond the material, that a new thing could be wrought when this clay has turned to dust, all this is too much: too much for God to offer, too much for us to take. After all if there is anything scholars are sure of it is this: he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He died.
And yet he lives. And we can live too, if we find our lives restored to us by giving them up to him. It is a mystery.
The mystery the Middle Ages found hard to bear was this: he died for us, he died for us. So astonishing was this reality they put it constantly in front of them, on the rood screen, on the altar, in the ciborium, all was Christ, and him crucified. How could this be? And yet it was.
Ancients pondered a primal mystery: God became human and with us came to dwell. Living among us was the living Word of God. Incarnate: he took flesh. In this mystery God’s compassion shone through the veiled world, an everlasting dawning in the darkest night.
No despair was there: hope shone. No fear was there: only faith. No hate was there: only love. And so they found themselves dumbfounded.
Simple shepherds had seen what brought confusion to all their philosophy. There at the inn, poor travelers’ child; there among the humble, the creatures; there on a night cold with the steel tramp of soldiers, the hard stare of the tax agent, the turned shoulder of the temple official, in a time beset by Imperial entanglements, unavoidable; there came into the world the - not invincible, not invulnerable, but somehow inexorable - exemplar and origin of love.
Into a stable, a simple byre, where night was quiet but for breathing, where night was warmed with animal heat, out of sight of the Big World, a small child lay, wrapped up and ready - to scream! to cry! to smile! to slumber sweetly. A baby - of all things - in which dwelt the heart of eternity, the beginning of the end of this world’s pain, its longing, its loss. All it yearned for was there, newly borne upon the world.
Before this mystery, beyond all reckoning, where philosophers feared to look, in the humblest of places - a child was born.
Christ the Savior is born. And we fall on our knees, as shepherds did, as all creatures will, and say our Alleluias with the rest, our humblest gift our best.
With the angels let us sing, Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!
As a Christmas present to the class, during its last session before the Christmas break in 1981, Dr Robert Goeser read aloud to us - about a baby - from the Martin Luther Christmas Book, Roland Bainton, ed. (St. Louis, Mo.: Concordia, 1950).