Martin Luther’s ‘First Sunday in Advent’ sermon

by Edie Wadsworth on December 4, 2010

I have some strange hobbies.   I like going to weddings and eating wedding cake.  I love song lyrics and google them frequently.   And I love listening to sermons.   I frequent church websites to see if they post sermon audio and then listen while I do kitchen chores.  I love listening to my pastor, to Pastor Bill Cwirla, and to the very intriguing sermon reviews on Issues Etc. Many modern day sermons have very little to do with Christ and His life-giving gospel.   I just finished reading the book of Acts and every sermon preached in that book had one message:   “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.”     The church as no other message to share.   We proclaim Christ, crucified for sinners. Or do we?

We have a series of books called The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther. They are arranged in the order of the church calendar so that the gospel reading/sermon for this past Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, was the same for us as it was 500 years ago in Wittenberg. I had the bright idea a few years ago to read Luther’s sermons as we got to them in the church year. I think I read 3 or 4 before busy-ness reared its’ ugly head and I gave up. I walk in today and Stevie is giddy, having just read Luther’s sermon for the first Sunday of Advent. Giddy, I tell you. Like ‘the best sermon he’s ever heard’ giddy. And why, you ask? Because Martin Luther knew how to preach the gospel. The gospel reading for the first  Sunday  of Advent {in our lectionary} is Matt. 21-1-9 where Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. Our king coming to us in humble and lowly means. Here’s a little excerpt from Luther’s sermon:

This is what is meant by “The king cometh.” You do not seek him, but he seeks you. You do not find Him, he finds you. For the preachers come from him, not from you; their sermons come from him, not from you; your faith comes from him, not from you; everything that faith works in you comes from him, not from you; and where he does not come, you remain outside; and where there is no Gospel, there is no God, but only sin and damnation. Therefore you should not ask, where to begin to be godly; there is no beginning, except where the king enters and is proclaimed.”

Luther takes every single detail in that Bible reading and shows how it points to Christ.  Jesus tells his disciples to go and ‘loose them [the colt and the ass] and bring them to me’.  Luther says that this can be understood spiritually as Jesus telling preachers to preach the gospel, which loosens the hold of the  sin and the law on the ‘old man’ and finally allows Christ to take His rightful place in our lives.   He likens the colt and the ass to our respective inner and outer man and goes on to describe how our outer man must bridled and led by Christ and His gospel.   He says,

These are the two asses:  The old one is the exterior man;  he is bound, with laws and fear of death, of hell, of shame, or with allurements of heaven, of life, of honor.  He goes forward with the external appearance of good works and is a pious rogue, but he does it unwillingly and with a heavy heart and a heavy conscience…….. He is a yoked animal who works under a burden and labors hard.  It is a miserable pitiable life that he lives under the compulsion of fear, death and shame.   The colt, the young ass, is the inner man, the heart, the mind, the will, which can never be subject to the law.  But he has no desire nor love for it until Christ comes and rides on him…….

The reason Christ rides upon the colt and not upon its mother, and yet uses both for his entrance into Jerusalem,  is that both the body and the soul must be saved.  If, here upon earth, the body is unwilling, not capable of grace and Christ’s leading, it must bear the Spirit, upon which Christ rides, who trains it and leads it along by the power of grace , received through Christ.  The colt, ridden by Christ, upon which no one ever rode, is the willing spirit, whom no one before could make willing, tame, or ready, save Christ by His grace.  However, the sack carrier, the burden bearer, the old Adam, is the flesh which goes riderless without Christ;  it must for this reason bear the cross and remain the beast of burden…..

Christ tells the disciples to loose them, that is, he tells them to preach the gospel in his name, in which is proclaimed grace and the remission of sins…..The gospel alone teaches us to come to Christ and to know Christ rightly.”

May we all be blessed this Advent with the coming of our King, who will loose our chains of sin, law-living, and self-righteousness.

And may we be blessed with preachers who will, in the words of St. Paul,  ”determine to know nothing but Christ, and Him crucified.”

Post co-written with my husband, Steve.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amy Avery December 4, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Edie and Steve,
Thank you for sharing this. I have no words to express how this has touched my heart except to point you to a glimmer of what my life has been in the last 6 weeks http://averytnfamily.blogspot.com/2010/11/simple-gifts.html. The Holy Spirit has gifted me in leading me to your blog. Thank you from my heart for allowing the Lord to work through you to inspire others.

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2 edie wadsworth December 5, 2010 at 1:11 am

amy,
oh dear, it sounds like you’ve been through it my friend. i was trying to find in your archives where you talk about what happened. send me the link if you get a chance. i’m praying for you today friend. His strength is made perfect in weakness.
and you’re in knoxville?! how cool is that. we’re nearly neighbors :)
lots of love,
edie

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3 Tarahlowry December 5, 2010 at 12:39 am

Edie and Steve!!!!
Oh, how I wish we could all do life together….
love these words of truth..they are life giving!

Our favorite person in Orlando is a retired Lutheran pastor with his doctorate in Ministry and Marriage and Family Therapy…..my husband and I love spending time with him…God is using him {and his lutheran theology} to bring freedom into our hearts and minds in many areas….

This is one of those posts where I feel like I could write a novel for my comment…but at the same time..feel speechless…so, I’m gonna go with speechless..
God is good and his love and grace are overwhelming…

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4 Anonymous December 5, 2010 at 1:12 am

I love a family that loves theology. And a little Martin Luther is always nice. He’s right. Everything proceeds from Our Lord. Every perfect gift (James 1:17), and every molecule in this universe (Acts 17:28) issues forth from Him.
It is a reminder we (read I) need. Everything I am is Him. Everything I have is His. Any good I do, I can only do because of Him. Whether it’s his arrival in this world, or his arrival in Jerusalem, the message is the same. God with us, God loves us, God saves us.

That’s an amen you hear – from over here – in the back row. That was a pretty sermon Edie. Thank you – and your husband.

Amen

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5 Kimsetser December 5, 2010 at 1:40 am

“He goes forward with the external appearance of good works and is a pious rogue, but he does it unwillingly and with a heavy heart and a heavy conscience…….. He is a yoked animal who works under a burden and labors hard. It is a miserable pitiable life that he lives under the compulsion of fear, death and shame.” That sounds familiar, especially here in this Appalachian culture where friendships and relationships are built upon works and church attendance every time the doors are open, and the guilt we carry with us for years is sometimes amazingly heavy…so glad that grace much more abounds.

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6 Flower Patch Farmgirl December 5, 2010 at 4:40 am

Have I ever told you that I ascribe to reformed theology? At least, I think I do? It’s hard to say for sure, because I grew up with different theology and we do not currently attend a “reformed” church, but Cory is pretty hard-core (he arrived on his own at this conclusion while studying theology at a non-reformed college) and, you know, the two of us? We talk. :) Anyway, the single thing that connects me most strongly to this is the idea that we would never choose God and His power on our own. Never. It has to be God choosing us.

I’m probably saying it all wrong and yes, it can seem like a very complex issue, but it gives me peace. As the song goes, “I’m not holding on to You, but You’re holding on to me…”

It’s late and I’m tired and I feel like I could ramble on and on here, but I’ll spare you, because I love you.

Nighty.

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7 Misty December 5, 2010 at 4:41 am

I love listening to sermons online while working in my kitchen. Max Lucado has a wonderful video series on his website on the book of Acts. It’s the Outlive Your Life series and it is really worth listening to. Hope you are finding quiet moments to enjoy the season. Merry Christmas
Misty

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8 LaVonne December 5, 2010 at 8:26 am

I like it. My husband would love it. Thanks for sharing :) Blessings!

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9 Sherrie December 5, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Sitting at home sick on this Sunday morning and was blessed by this post. I am thankful to sit under the preaching of a man who proclaims the gospel wholly. Can’t imagine what I would do without it!

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10 elizabeth highsmith December 5, 2010 at 6:40 pm

i have a proposition in which you can engage in three of your favorite hobbies
come to my wedding
eat all the cake you want
you can have total lyrical authority and you can even secure a preacher
we’ll let him preach
you know where this is going, uh-huh- find me that man
seriously this is all i’ve got amongst holy talk?

nah it’s a shame i live alone whenever i read these types of posts because i que up the amen chorus. this is one of the top reasons i love you! you point to his grace! amen and let there be cake.

p.s. i have a luther crush i would potentially name a little manchild luther.

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11 Suzanne Joffrion December 5, 2010 at 7:38 pm

I heard a great sermon this morning, relating how the priests making the sacrifice, and the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made, are central to the gospel and to the celebration of Advent! It was wonderful!
Thanks for sharing!
Suzanne

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12 Laura K. December 7, 2010 at 2:38 am

I frequently lurk on your blog, Edie, and enjoy all your posts. But I love, love, love your soul stretching, heart expanding, mind renewing doctrine/theology posts. Your God given passion for truth, scripture, and Christ ministers to me. Thanks and keep it up!

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13 Laura December 7, 2010 at 5:11 am

Such good, true, needful words for us–the beggars, the wanderers–to hear. Thank you for pointing your readers (myself included!) toward the core realities of what it means to be a Christian–ever increasing awareness of our staggering need for Christ, and ever increasing joy and amazement at the gift of salvation God has given us in Christ. Thank you for turning our hearts and minds to this again today.
http://welivethegivenlife.blogspot.com/

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14 Ruth December 7, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Beautiful and uplifting message. It is exactly what my soul needed today. Thank you for sharing your heart openly with us. I often visit your blog for inspiration. You are like a mentor to me even though we have never met IRL. I think there are many people who visit your blog and feel the same way.

Hugs,
Ruth

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