The more we draw Christ down into nature and into the flesh, the more consolation accrues for us…. [Indeed,] how could God have demonstrated his goodness more powerfully than by stepping down so deep into flesh and blood, that he does not despise that which is kept secret by nature, but honors nature to the highest degree exactly where it was brought into shame to the highest degree in Adam and Eve?
~Sermon the Gospel for Christmas Eve, Luke 2:1-14, LW 52:12.
One of Luther’s persistent hopes was that when we behold and celebrate the Incarnation at Christmastime we would recognize just how much God loves us and, indeed, all creation. In the Incarnation God chooses to become one of us and part of the created order in the human flesh of the Christ child. God does not stand back, either in stark judgment or, for that matter, patiently waiting for us to improve ourselves sufficiently to earn God’s favor. Rather, God in Christ joins God’s eternal divinity to our frail, finite, and vulnerable humanity in order to honor and redeem us and, in fact, to hallow all of creation.
This stands in contrast to many elements of the Christian tradition that, then or now, see nature and our creaturely, natural life in the flesh as somehow beneath or below our “spiritual selves” because of “the fall.” Rather, for Luther nature and the ordinary, physical dimensions of our lives are not something to be escaped, but rather to be valued as God values them and therefore respected and honored.
Christmas, in this sense, has but one purpose: to remind us – indeed, proclaim to us! – that God loves us as we are. That God loves not the person we are trying to be or hoping to be or promised to be, but the person we actually are, with faults and failings, hopes and dreams, and all the rest. This is why Christ came: to sing God’s love for us and all creation as the angels sing to the shepherds that first Christmas night.