This blog is two “blogs” – both by Martin Luther. The first one, the challenge, is one I’d been thinking I was overdue to read again. I was wondering how I’d find it. So I’m reading my December 20, Luther devotion from “Faith Alone” [a daily word from Martin Luther, edited by James C. Galvin, Zondervan Press] and there it is – challenging as ever. The second, from the December 22 devotional, is pure Christmas grace.
So from Brother Martin:
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All of us should use the gospel to evaluate ourselves. How near or far are we from Christ? How are we doing in faith and love? Many become inflamed with dreamy devotion when they hear about how impoverished Christ was when he was born. They grow furious at the people of Bethlehem and criticize their blindness and ingratitude. The think that if they had been there, they would have served the Lord and his mother. They wouldn’t have allowed them to be so miserable. But these people don’t even notice their own neighbors who are nearby and need their help. They ignore them and leave them as they are. Who on earth doesn’t have miserable, sick, blundering, or sinful people around them? Why don’t they show their love to these people? Why don’t they do for their neighbors what Christ did for them?
Don’t deceive yourself by thinking you would have treated Christ well when you don’t presently do anything for your neighbor. If you had been at Bethlehem, you would have paid just as little attention to him as everyone else did. You only want to serve him because you know who he is. Let’s say that he were to come, lie in the manger, and let you know that he is the one you know so much about. Of course you would want to do something to help. But before that, you wouldn’t have done anything.
Similarly, if you could see your neighbors now as they will be in the future, and if they were lying in front of you, then you certainly would take care of them. But because you only see them for what they are now, you ignore them. You fail to recognize Christ in your neighbors.
Faith is not believing that the [nativity] story that you are reading is true as written. That does nothing for anyone. Even unbelievers can believe that this Bible story about Jesus’ birth is true. Faith is not a natural work apart from God’s grace, as the Scripture clearly teaches. Rather, the right kind of faith, the kind that flows from grace and that God’s Word demands, is firmly believing that Christ was born for you. His birth is yours and occurred for your benefit.
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HOLY DAY BLESSINGS TO YOU ALL!