Worship of the Shepherds by Bronzino
1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2: (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3: And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4: And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5: To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6: And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7: And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8: And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9: And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10: And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11: For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12: And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 " Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. "
Worship of the Shepherds by Bronzino
DAY ONE - December 25 - Christmas Day
Today Christ is born.
Today Salvation has appeared.
Today on earth the angels sing and the archangels make merry.
Today the just exult and say:
GLORIA IN EXCELSIS DEO!
From a Christmas Sermon of Blessed Martin Luther:
For, if it is true that the child was born of the virgin and is mine, then I have no angry God and I must know and feel that there is nothing but laughter and joy in the heart of the Father and no sadness in my heart. For, if what the angel says is true, then he is our Lord and Savior, what can sin do against us? "If God is for us, who is against us?" AE 51:216
DAY TWO - December 26 - St. Stephen
Heavenly Father, in the midst of our sufferings for the sake of Christ grant us grace to follow the example of the first martyr, Stephen, that we also may look to the One who suffered and was crucified on our behalf and pray for those who do us wrong... [From the Collect for the Day]
Acts 6:8-7:2a, 51-60 (ESV)
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freemen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly instigated men who said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and they set up false witnesses who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us." And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
And the high priest said, "Are these things so?" And Stephen said: "Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,
You stiffed-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it."
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
"Of the Twelve, John alone did not forsake Jesus in the hours of His suffering and death. With the faithful women, he stood at the cross, where our Lord made him the guardian of His mother. After Pentecost, John spent his ministry in Jerusalem and at Ephesus, where tradition says he was the bishop. He write the fourth Gospel, the three Epistles that bear his name, and the Book of Revelation.... According to tradition, John was banished to the island of Patmos (off the coast of Asia Minor) by the Roman Emperor Domitian. John lived to a very old age, surviving all the apostles, and died at Ephesus around AD 100."
DAY THREE - December 27 - St. John
DAY FOUR - December 28 - Holy Innocents
From a Luther homily upon this day:
If Caesar Augustus of Rome, himself, had wanted to present them with his whole empire, he would not have served them so well as Herod did by his butchery. He tore the little children from their mothers' bosoms, and sent them to heaven, making nothing less than martyrs of them, whose blood is precious in the sight of God! For the parents it was a terrible thing, but it happened for the eventual good of the children. They felt no anguish in their souls. So the Lord took them away at the time of His own advent into the world, as a sweet smelling sacrifice to Himself. Thus much good would yet come from Herod's murdering. (House Postilla 3:260
Holy Gospel: Matthew 2:13-18 (ESV)
13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, "Out of Egypt I called my son."
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah
18 "A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because
they are no more."
DAY FIVE - December 29- St. David
The Commemoration of St. David, the King and Prophet.
David, the greatest of Israel's kings, ruled from about 1010 to 970 B.C. The events of his life are found in 1 Samuel 16 through 1 Kings 2 and in 1 Chronicles 10—29. David was also gifted musically. He was skilled in playing the lyre and the author of no less than 73 psalms, including the beloved Psalm 23. His public and private character displayed a mixture of good (for example, his defeat of the giant Goliath, 1 Samuel 17) and evil (as in his adultery with Uriah's wife, followed by his murder of Uriah, 2 Samuel 11). David's greatness lay in his fierce loyalty to God as Israel's military and political leader, coupled with his willingness to acknowledge his sins and ask for God's forgiveness (2 Samuel 12; see also Psalm 51). It was under David's leadership that the people of Israel were united into a single nation with Jerusalem as its capital city.
David's prayer of repentance from Psalm 51 : "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation and uphold me with Thy free spirit."
A thought today from Luther's homily upon the Nativity from the year 1532:
"For, do you, whoever of you is able to think deeply about it (let alone express it in words), do you reckon that we poor, miserable sinners should so presume to receive this child and not doubt but believe with certainty that he not merely is born unto us, but also this very same son is given unto us? No heart can fathom it, no human tongue can explain it.
"For 'to give' means to grant freely, gratuitously, without price. The prophet now says, This son is given to us, which means as much as he is present, a free gift unto us; he is yours and mine in such a way that we do not purchase or pay any money for him, but that he is absolutely a free gift.
"The world really does not deserve hearing even a single word about this because of its shameful unbelief. The pious Virgin and noble mother does indeed bring this son into the world, sot hat the very same son is your and my son and gift, just as surely as if he were put right into your and my hand. And for this we have positive and sure signs, God's Word and the holy sacraments. The prophet Isaiah stands as witness of this and says that this Son is given unto us.
House Postilla III:223
Glory to Thee, Who didst descend to save our souls!
Glory to Thee, Who didst take flesh in the womb of the Virgin!
--St. Ephraim the Syrian, *A Spiritual Psalter* #2
And so Christ is born that by His birth He might restore our nature. He became a child, was fed, and grew that he might inaugurate the one perfect age to remain forever as he had created it. He supports man that man might no longer fall. And the creature He had formed of earth He now makes heavenly; and what He had endowed with a human soul He now vivifies to become a heavenly spirit. In this way He fully raised man to God, and left nothing in him, neither sin, nor death, nor travail, nor pain, nor anything earthly, with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever, for all the ages of eternity. -- St. Peter Chrysologus, Homily upon the Incarnation (Christian Prayer, p. 1957)
"The grace of God...bringing salvation" did not appear to all pious men or to all penitent men or even to all believing men. It appeared "to all men," without exception. There is no one in the whole world - from Adam, the first created, to the last person born - who is shut out from God's grace. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 77
In the year 2015 from the birth of Abraham, in the year 1510 from the exodus of the people of Israel out of Egypt, in the year 1032 from the enthronement of David the Prophet and King, in the sixtieth "week" of the prophecy of Daniel, in the forty-second year of the reign of Caesar Augustus, in the thirty-third year of the reign of Herod, when the staff had gone from Judah has had been prophesied by Jacob the Patriarch, at a time when the whole world was at peace, it pleased God to send His only-begotten Son and Eternal Word to the world to become Man and to teach us God's love, to suffer, die, and rise from the dead for our salvation.
At that time, the Lord Jesus was born in a humble cave in Bethlehem of Judah, and no one knew of it but the immaculate Virgin Mary his Mother and Joseph her spouse. No one heard of this miracle surpassing all miracles but a few humble shepherds who had been told by angels in the sky that sang this hymn: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men." Then the Magi came from the East, led by a star in the heaven: they found their way to where the Divine Infant rested, and they adored Him, and opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.
To God Incarnate, to the suckling Infant who humbled Himself and took our form, becoming one of us to make us divine; to the One who later walked among us to teach us the way of salvation and who loved us so much as to give His life for it: to Him be glory, honor, and adoration forever and ever. Oh, come, let us adore Him!
(From the Roman Martyrology)
DAY EIGHT - January 1 - Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord
The drops of blood Christ shed at His circumcision were the first of the payments He made for the immeasurable debts of the world's sin. Oh, let us in faith and with joy embrace the holy Christ Child who today so willingly submitted Himself to the most humble divine Law for us. Now no law we have transgressed can damn us. Now God Himself, whom we have offended, can no longer be angry with us. Now, like the old year itself, all our old sins have eternally disappeared. -- C. F. W. Walther, *God Grant It!* p. 89
Holy Gospel: Luke 2:21
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
1. Jesus! Name of wondrous love,
Name all other names above,
Unto which must every knee
Bow in deep humility.
2. Jesus! Name decreed of old,
To the maiden mother told,
Kneeling in her lowly cell,
By the angel Gabriel.
3. Jesus! Name of priceless worth
To the fallen of the earth
For the promise that it gave
"Jesus shall His people save."
4. Jesus! Name of mercy mild,
Given to the holy Child
When the cup of human woe
First He tasted here below.
5. Jesus! Only name that's given
Under all the mighty heav'n
Whereby those to sin enslaved
Burst their fetters and are saved.
6. Jesus! Name of wondrous love,
Human name of God above;
Pleading only this, we flee
Helpless, O our God, to Thee.
Lutheran Service Book 900:1-6
Jesus! Name of Wondrous Love