From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

ADVENT 3, B – December 17, 2017

 Very fittingly, in this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation of the Church that Martin Luther inspired, this year’s Christmas program is based upon a hymn he wrote, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come.” He wrote it for his own children when they were just old enough to learn it and sing it. “If we wish to train children, we must become children with them,” Luther often said. And so, he based his Christmas hymn on a popular folk song that was used as a singing game by young people. A young man would begin by singing that he had good news to share, and then he would put forward a riddle to a girl. If she couldn’t solve it, she had to give him a wreath. As Luther’s song became more and more popular, he came to feel that it deserved its own tune, so he wrote the tune we now sing with the hymn. It is #358 in the hymnal.

 The point Luther makes with his hymn is the same point Luke makes in his Gospel with the story of the birth of Jesus: we have a great message to hear, to take to heart, and to share. Luke puts us, his readers, into the story by connecting it to historical people and events, such as Caesar Augustus and his census. And, as he relates the angel’s announcement of Jesus’ birth, we are drawn into the story by hearing that His birth is good news for all people. For us! It’s as if we’re there with the shepherds, hearing the joyous news and going to see the newborn Savior!

 Luther also draws us into the story with his hymn. After relating the angel’s announcement to the shepherds in verses 1-5, he says in verse 6:

How glad we’ll be to find it so! Then with the shepherds let us go

To see what God for us has done in sending us His own dear Son.

There’s the point of Jesus’ birth, and of every celebration of it and of His entire life and ministry, whether it be in this Children’s Christmas program, or in any other Divine Service in church. Jesus’ coming was not just for Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds, and the Wise Men, and for our children today. He was born for you! God has included you in the story by bringing the story – by bringing His Son – to you! With, then, Mary and Joseph; and the shepherds; and the Wise Men; and our children we sing:

Welcome to earth, O noble Guest, through whom the sinful world is blest!

You came to share my misery that You might share Your joy with me. (verse 8)

Jesus comes to share with us all that is His – His righteousness and His relationship with His Father – and take upon Himself all that is ours – our sins and the punishment they threaten. In Him God makes us new people; His beloved children, like Jesus! What joy is ours! We now have a great story to rejoice in and share.

 The full celebration of God’s gift to us of His Son is on next Sunday and Monday. The children have helped to prepare us today. As your Christmas preparations continue and wrap up this week, remember; and rejoice; and share the news! – that it’s all from heaven above!

Glory to God in highest heaven, who unto us His Son has given!

While angels sing with pious mirth a glad new year to all the earth!

In Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.