In his commentary on Genesis 3:15, Martin Luther says, “For immediately, from our mother’s womb forward, we begin to die.” Of course, this is not at all what new parents think about at the joyful birth of their child. The birth of a child is indeed cause for thankful praise to God who blesses parents with such wonderful gifts as children. But we cannot escape the wages of original sin.
At the time of Christ’s joyous birth, we praise God for the man in whom was life itself. But we also should pause to consider his impending death. It is sorrowful to consider that such a thing must come to pass. Even more troublesome is the knowledge that such sorrow is a result of our sin. It is easy to see how our sinful will does all it can to reject God in our lives. We also see how the Jews, men and women just like us, did all they could to reject God, even to the point of killing him when God walked among them. They crucified him; we crucified him!
But at that glorious moment on the cross, God’s law and gospel met in one indescribable moment. The very event that screamed to us, “Look what you have done!” proclaims joyously, “Behold, what I have done!” God took our sin and washed it away forever. And he has made this gift ours through faith. We joyously celebrate our Savior’s birth in anticipation of the joyous celebration of Christ’s resurrection which would seal the victory which we will enjoy in heaven after the last day.
But for now, we are still on this earth. While Satan is defeated, he still roams around as one condemned. The condemned one has no hope, and the hopeless one seeks to drag others into his web of despair. One of his tools of destruction is the sword.
The sword of war has always been with us. We study history and find war after war. We ask our parents and grandparents about their childhood and we hear of war. We look at our own lifetimes and see war. Two of this edition’s translations look into a couple very serious times in our nation’s history: World War I and II. August Pieper, a WELS pastor and professor, lived to see both wars, and his pen recorded his words of learning from those two wars. It is our hope that these works will give a Lutheran perspective on important events in our nation’s history, as well as offer help and comfort to us contemporary Lutherans who are living in times of war.
But in spite of all earthly sorrow we can look upon the Son of Man, true God, who was born to die and to live again. What joy! Two other translations in this issue emphasize the wonderful joy of God’s plan of salvation. Jesus brought true peace on earth for all people, not mere earthly peace that a human treaty brings, but a lasting peace for the body and soul in eternity. Martin Luther takes us through the first proclamation of this plan by God in the Garden of Eden, and Georg Stöckhardt preaches to us his sermon for the festival of Christmas. Both Luther and Stöckhardt dig deeply into the text of Scripture, which serves as a model to us as we study God’s Word.
It is our sincere prayer that the words of these men might offer learning and wisdom to us in our continuing study of Christ and his Word.
— Caleb Bassett