Tag Archives: Martin Luther

Martin Luther on Christmas

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Luther’s writings contain a multitude of references to Advent and Christmas. The following excerpt comes from a sermon on the Nativity that he preached in 1530:

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If Christ had arrived with trumpets and lain in a cradle of gold, his birth would have been a splendid affair. But it would not be a comfort to me. He was rather to lie in the lap of a poor maiden and be thought of little significance in the eyes of the world. Now I can come to him. Now he reveals himself to the miserable in order not to give any impression that he arrives with great power, splendor, wisdom, and aristocratic manners. But upon his return on that Day, when he will oppose the high and the mighty, it will be different. Now he comes to the poor, who need a Savior, but then he will come as a Judge against those who are persecuting him now.

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Advent – Part 2 – The Wreath

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This is a continuation of the sermon Jim gave during Advent – Here he talks about one of the explanations of the Advent wreath.

 

“The Advent wreath was first used as a Christian devotion in the middle ages. I suspect Martin Luther had a hand in keeping it popular because the Advent wreath in its present form started in Germany as a Lutheran family custom. It was used as an in home Christian education device; and did not become widely used in churches until the 20th century, and therefore an exact standardized meaning for every part of it would not be possible. I will try to give a good general meaning to all of its components. First the wreath gets its design from the customs of Pre-Christian Germanic and Scandinavian cultures who used candles and greenery as symbols of light and life during winter.
We have a circular evergreen wreath with white flowers, the evergreen symbolizes renewal – In ancient times the cedar was revered as the tree of royalty, it also signified immortality, all these the sign of Christ who reigns as king forever. The circular shape represents the completeness of God. No Beginning and no end. The white flowers represent life and resurrection or purity. I’m sure you now understand that each part could have different meanings, yet lead us to one common meaning. There are five candles; the candles symbolize the light of Christ coming into the world. We have one white candle in the center, slightly taller than the rest, surrounded by four candles which represent the period of waiting during the four weeks of Advent, which themselves represent the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ. There are three blue candles and one pink candle. The weekly progression of lighting the candles symbolizes our preparation through prayer and penitence. The blue color represents Royalty, prayer, penitence and preparation. We will get to the pink one in a minute. We light one blue candle on the first Sunday of Advent this reminds us of the hope Christ brings us. On the second Sunday in Advent we light the Hope candle and a second blue candle to remind us of the peace Christ brings us. On the third Sunday we light the first two and we light the pink candle to remind us of the joy that Christ brings us. Why is it pink? Long ago, the Pope had the custom of giving someone a rose on the fifth Sunday of Lent. The effect was to give some relief to the solemnity of Lent. ”

“Originally, before shopping malls, Advent was a solemn fast in preparation for Christmas, so the custom was extended to the third Sunday of Advent to lighten it up a bit too. On the fourth Sunday of Advent, we light the first three and the remaining blue one to remind us of the love that Christ brings us. Each Sunday the light keeps getting brighter until we celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve and the light is brightest when we light the Christ candle. This, of course, is the slightly taller white candle in the center which reminds us that Jesus is the sinless, spotless Lamb of God, sent to wash away our sins. His birth was for his death and his death was for our birth.”

 

More to follow – Stay tuned

What is Advent – Part 1

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The following is the first in a series of excerpts from a sermon given by Jim Edgel on Advent.  Each day I will post another part of this.  He explains the meaning o advent and some of the traditions we celebrate.

 

“Friends this is the first Sunday in the season of Advent. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus” which means “coming” or “arrival”. The advent of our Lord is the beginning of the “Church Year” and observed during the four weeks prior to Christmas. This is a time for Christians to Prepare their hearts as a welcome place for God and Prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to Prepare for the second coming of Jesus as the risen Christ to rule triumphantly over life in heaven and on earth. During the Advent season our prayers and Bible readings should be focused on preparing us spiritually for Christmas (the first coming), but also for his eventual second coming. That is why Advent services include both Old Testament passages related to the expected Messiah and New Testament passages concerning Jesus’ second coming as judge of all. Also passages about John the Baptist, the precursor who prepared the way for the Messiah. Jesus is the light of the world. We who have sat in darkness have seen a great light, the light of Jesus Christ, our salvation.  We are reminded of the light that Jesus brings us by lighting the candles in our Advent wreath.”

 

Next time – The Advent Wreath  – Stay tuned.

Work — Nourishment for the Soul?

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I just finished another chapter of the book I’ve been reading for my morning devotional, Awake My Soul, by Timothy Jones.  He poses an interesting question — Can work not only feed the body, but nourish the soul?  It’s a chapter about the idea of vocation, or calling.  Martin Luther, of course, argued that not only priests and nuns, but milkmaids, blacksmiths and housewives shared in God’s work in the world.  The work we do becomes holy if reverently approached.  Our work can serve others and influence others for Christ.

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Just recently I was talking to a friend about her Via de Cristo retreat (I was the leader of her weekend).  I shared with her how I felt that God had called me to train the team for that retreat, and she said, “Joan, you trained the team just for me.”  One of the big surprises that happened for my friend, was an opportunity to reconnect with another woman named Karen, someone she hadn’t seen since she was a girl.  Karen became Beth Ann’s spiritual mentor for a time.  I knew Karen through my workplace;  I was working at a job I was not eager to take, yet it led to an amazing experience for somebody else. No doubt there were other plans of God at work that I’ll never even know about.  It wasn’t where I wanted to be, but it was where I needed to be, and where God placed me at that time.  Knowing that has nourished my soul.

Often we are called to do what we enjoy, even if it involves financial sacrifice.  After retirement, I started work for the local library, only to find myself feeling unsettled.  I liked the job;  I like the people, so what was the problem?  I just had the continual, nagging feeling that it was taking me away from what God wanted me to do.  So I quit and now find myself blogging and working as a volunteer for my church.  These activities have fed my soul, and maybe to the souls of a few others.

Of course, it’s a constant challenge to discern God’s will, and we’ll make wrong turns.  We won’t always get it right.  We must pray, ask advice from Godly friends, and pay attention to our circumstances and how God is using our gifts and talents.

As Jones says in his book,

“We spend too much time at work for it not to be a setting for daily seeking and experiencing God.  …..CONCENTRATE ON WORK, BUT MAKE ROOM FOR GOD…”

 

What is Our Daily Bread?

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“Give us this day our daily bread.”  Matthew 6:11

This well-known and much used phrase comes from what Christians call The Lord’s Prayer, the prayer Jesus taught to His disciples.  I was just reading about it recently in Eugene Petersons’ book about the Scriptures, “Eat This Book.”  Evidently at one point in the history of Bible translation and interpretation, the word used for daily(espiousion) was not found in very any other ancient document written in classical Greek;  many scholars assumed this meant it was a very unusual word, and must refer to some deeper, uncommon, probably spiritual meaning.  However, after the discovery of a number of ancient “housekeeping” documents they realized that the word was actually one used in the everyday language of normal life.  It means exactly what it says:  bread produced today;  fresh bread, ready for consumption.  The word wasn’t in any literary documents, because it was too ordinary, too unassuming for a real author to use.  It was a word meant for housewives and shopping lists.

So when Jesus told us to pray for daily bread, He did, indeed mean we should pray for things that are real and physical.  Martin Luther casts a wide net for the term when he explains it in the Small Catechism:

What is meant by daily bread?

Everything that is required to satisfy our bodily needs;  such as food and rainment, house and home, fields and flocks, money and goods;  pious parents, children and servants;  godly and faithful rulers, good government, seasonable weather, peace and health;  order and honor;  true friends, good neighbors, and the like.”

Wow!  That’s a lot to ask for, isn’t it.  Many are things we accept from God without much thought at all.  Yet they are all gifts, gifts we should reflect on, and be thankful for.  So this month of Thanksgiving, let’s each make time to give thanks for those everyday blessings from our good God.

 

Martin Luther on Growing Our Gifts

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“This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”
Martin Luther