Martin Luther wrote about the joy of the Gospel revealed at Christmas when he composed these words in the hymn “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come”:
“From heaven above to earth I come / To bear good news to every home / Glad tidings of great joy I bring / Whereof I now will say and sing / To you this night is born a child / Of Mary, chosen virgin mild / This little child, of lowly birth / Shall be the joy of all the earth.”
Besides the carols, Luther loved Christmas because it mirrors so many elements of the Gospel story itself. To him, the tradition of giving gifts to children on Christmas Eve was an opportunity to educate them on the gift of grace that God had wrapped in a little human baby lying in a manger… just for them. It was a perfect moment to emphasize the miracle of the incarnation. It still is.
According to tradition, Luther may have also popularized the tradition of the Christmas tree as a way to express and teach theology to his family. The story goes that, while he was on his way home one evening, he became overwhelmed by the incredible beauty of a fir tree positioned against the backdrop of the brilliant starlit sky. He so desperately wanted to describe what he had seen to his family, but the words failed him. So he ventured back outside and chopped down one of these trees, bringing it home to share with his family. He even decorated the tree with candle tapers, mimicking the stars that hung over the manger where the newborn Messiah lay.
Christmas is still a time to remember. The sights and sounds may have been different, but Martin Luther loved Christmas because it reminded him of the purity, beauty, and truth of the Jesus story. This Christmas, may Luther’s passion for the real gospel also be a reminder to each of us to listen, remember, and sing the Jesus story ourselves with all the joy its truth affords.
(From the article “Why Martin Luther Loved Christmas” by Keith Getty — H/t: Church History)