The art of the above photograph is attempting to show the reality of God coming down to us from heaven in the Incarnation, in the Word, and in the Sacrament. I believe the Latin words mean: “Behold! The dwelling of God is with men!”
At Christmastime, Martin Luther’s children would dress as angels, and then one of them would sing the first verse of Luther’s hymn:
“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:
Then all the angel children would join in:
“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.
“This is the Christ, our God Most High,
Who hears your sad and bitter cry;
He will Himself your Savior be
From all your sins to set you free.
“He will on you the gifts bestow
Prepared by God for all below,
That in His kingdom, bright and fair,
You may with us His glory share.”
The angels came announcing gifts from above, but the gift of Christmas cannot be fully understood without the gift of Good Friday and Easter because they are the same gift of flesh and blood.
The gift God gave was Himself. He is mankind justified. He is human flesh declared righteous. He is the forgiveness of sins. He is God’s grace and favor to all men on earth. That is why on Christmas, Christians around the world personally receive this gift in Holy Communion: the forgiveness of sins given for you, the body and blood given for you, the word made flesh given for you.
He is the one gift wrapped up by different means: the Word made flesh come in the likeness of sinful man; His Name, death, and resurrection in baptism; and His eternal life in His Body and Blood. He is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Him. (Genesis 5:1-3; Romans 8:3; Matthew 28:18-20, 26:28; & John 14:6).
Because this is real, the angelic children continued singing and telling the good news of where to look. The shepherds were not left guessing:
“These are the signs that you shall mark:
The swaddling clothes and manger dark.
There you will find the infant laid
By whom the heavens and earth were made.”
The shining path in the photo above symbolically points and leads to the word made flesh given to us in the Sacrament on the altar. Like the path in the photograph, the word of God is straight and clear. We are not left guessing. This is the way. He is the way.
Then the adults and everyone in Luther’s household would respond:
“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.
“Come here, my friends, lift up your eyes,
And see what in the manger lies.
Who is this child, so young and fair?
It is the Christ Child lying there.
“Ah, Lord, though You created all,
How weak You are, so poor and small,
That You should choose to lay Your head
Where lowly cattle lately fed!
“And so it pleases You to see
This simple truth revealed to me:
That worldly honor, wealth, and might
Are weak and worthless in your sight.
“Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Prepare a bed, soft, undefiled,
A quiet chamber set apart
For You to dwell within my heart.”
Now, the whole world and every nation sings:
“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.”
— ”From Heaven Above to Earth I Come,”
by Martin Luther, LSB 358:1-7, 9, 12-13, 15.
The pictures in this post are from St. Josaphat Basilica during a Christmas concert by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Yes, around the world and in many ways, even unbelievers sing His praise.
Glory to God in the highest! Gloria in excelsis Deo!
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