A couple of beautiful excerpts from the Great Reformer’s Sermon on the Visitation, in which he sounds very much like the progenitor of Alcoholics Anonymous that he is. Taken from Martin Luther’s Christmas Book that Roland Bainton put together (indispensable reading this time of year), these paragraphs are part of Dr. Luther’s exposition of The Magnificat, AKA Mary’s song in response to news delivered by the angel Gabriel:

“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.” (Luke 1: 46-48a)

1350367110-32012-981The stress should not be on the ‘low estate’ but on the word ‘regarded.’ [Mary’s] low estate is not to be praised, but God’s regard, as, when a price gives his hand to a beggar, the meanness of the beggar is not to be praised, but the graciousness and goodness of the prince. The evil eye looks only on the reward and the result of the humility. True humility does not know that it is humble. If it did, it would be proud from the contemplation of so fine a virtue.

God allows the godly to be powerless and oppressed so that everyone thinks they are done for, yet even in that very moment God is most powerfully present, though hidden and concealed. When the power of main fails, the power of God begins, provided faith is present and expectant. When the oppression is ended, then one sees what strength lies below the weakness. Even so was Christ powerless on the cross, and yet he was most mighty there and overcame sin, death, world, hell, devil and all ill…

You have got to feel the pinch of hunger in the midst of scarcity and experience what hunger and scarcity are, when you do not know where to turn, to yourself, or to anyone else but only to God, that the work may be God’s alone and of none other. You must not only think and speak of lowliness, but come into it, sink into it, utterly helpless, that God alone may save you. Or at any rate, should it not happen, you should at least desire it and not shrink. For this reason we are Christians and have the Gospel, that we may fall into distress and lowliness and that God thereby may have his work in us.