By N.F.S. GRUNDTVIG
(From his Christmas Day Sermon, December 25, 1843 Luke 2: 1-14)
All praise and honor be to You, our God and Father, for the joyful tidings! Indeed, all praise, honor and thanks be to You forever for the Christmas tidings to Your house on high, to more than angel-joy and gladness, to everlasting communion with Your only-begotten Son, the Beloved, in whom You find favor! All praise, honor and thanks be to You from the heart’s core for sending us the joyful tidings with the angel-host that sees Your face, hears with amazement Your magisterial voice, and accomplishes Your commission with joy! And for confirming Your Christmas tidings through Your only-begotten Son, who is in Your embrace, is God with You forever, but became human like us, born of a woman! And for sealing this in Our Lord Jesus’ name in the hearts of all believers through Your Holy Spirit, which searches Your depths, works through Your omnipotence, comforts with Your love, accompanies us with Your Light through the world’s confusion and death’s wilderness to the land of the living, to the home of peace, to the everlasting dwellings of gladness, Your house, our Father! You Who are in heaven!
“And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice.” This is one of the many prophecies in Isaiah which received visible, heavenly fulfillment when God’s Son became human. According to the Gospel of the Day, it was fulfilled literally for the shepherds on the night God’s Son was born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary. When they heard the multitude of the heavenly host singing “Glory be to God on high, and peace on earth, good will to all men,” the shepherds actually heard a night song to inaugurate a feast-day whereby a new festival was introduced to the world, the Christmas festival for the child born in Bethlehem…
Christianity is not a new Law but a Gospel, a joyful message from heaven. And this joyful message is that because we are wretched sinners and because the Law cannot quicken us and our righteousness cannot save us, a Savior is born who is Christ the Lord in the City of David, the Child of Bethlehem, the Prince of Christmas! He brings forgiveness of sins, God’s peace, and heavenly joy to all who believe in His name, the name of Jesus. To this name all knees shall bow in Heaven and earth and beneath the earth and all tongues confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the honor of God the Father!
We must remember this with feeling, and have the heart to believe the glad tidings –– to believe in this Son of God and of the Virgin Mary, who was wrapped in cloth and laid in a manger –– and then again was wrapped in cloth and laid in the grave. But He rose in triumph from the dead and sits in glory at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and He will come in His Father’s glory to gather all His people to His Father’s house. If we have the heart to believe this, then we shall also learn that Christmas is still a children’s festival with angel-song and glad hearts, and that this is so for us to a much greater degree than for our forefathers; indeed it can be so for us almost to the same degree as for shepherds, in Bethlehem!
My friends, I am too old to take any pleasure in melodious words with no power or truth. But I know it is true and that God has the overflowing power to prove that what is impossible for humankind is possible, indeed is child’s play, for Him! So I purposely say that precisely here and now our Christmas joy can and will be so great among us as it has never been here or anywhere since the days of the Lord Himself and His Apostles!
This comes about because only now can the great light that was lit in the evening hour, the light of Christmas Eve, truly illuminate our hearts and eyes so that we see what we actually need, and what God has given us in His only begotten Son. He not only suffered and died and rose for us but can and will truly dwell and grow, walk and work, and be glorified and reign, in all His believers! Yes, indeed, only now, and with God’s help and through the Holy Spirit, can this great secret of God’s devotion, God’s revelation in the flesh, in the incarnation of the Son and the Word in the power of the Spirit, be revealed to us, to us and to our believing children. And it can grow all the more, so that our heavenly childlikeness will develop as the angel-song echoes for us and the glad heart is reborn within us.
Yes indeed, my friends, even as from experience we get to know the child’s faith and the child’s hope, the child’s eyes and the child’s heart in ourselves and others, so must we feel and confess that if childlikeness were free of childishness and could be united with youthful courage, adult power, and elderly wisdom, it would be a joy to live, and the glad heart would follow of its own accord. Nowhere else on earth has this feeling been deeper than in our part of the world, so it must still be found far more potently at the bottom of our hearts than anywhere else. This wonder, the union of childlikeness with all things human, which is good and great and to be wished for, this is the very core of the gospel of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. Although it is still far from everything that has been granted us in God’s only begotten Son—for we shall one day become as He is so as to see Him as He truly is –– this is the very first step. It is already so great and glad a step as is possible for God Almighty and only achievable through His heavenly Father-love which to His Holy Spirit He instils into our hearts.
So the child of Bethlehem was both God and human. And although it sounds like a fairy-tale, He can and will make all believers both God and human too! Jesus Christ was clearly a human being whose like had never been seen before, and God will make such people of all His believers first and foremost, such people whose childlikeness separated from all things childish, will live in loving communion with youthful courage, adult power, and elderly wisdom. For so it lived in Him to the very last moment when on the cross he prayed for his enemies, comforted His mother, and bowed His head with the child’s words, “Father into Your hands I commend my Spirit!” Doubtless our Lord had no wish to demonstrate His youthful courage like a dare-devil and tempt God by throwing Himself off the top of the Temple, but he showed it far more clearly in His meeting with the Tempter in the wilderness, in following the Devil through the air, in defying all the glory of the world and in believing in the true nourishment of God’s Word for the life of man!
The Lord refused to use His adult power as a king at the head of His people to crush His enemies and throw off the heathen yoke. He showed it far more gloriously by bearing poverty, scorn and slander, by bearing His cross, struggling, suffering and dying and by showing His wisdom, radiating though all His words and putting for shame the old, the learned and the scribes. Amen!
Grundtvig, NF.S., 2019. Human Comes First, the Christian Theology of N.F.S. Grundvig. Translated and edited by Edward Broadbridge, Denmark: Aarhus University Press.