Martin Luther, the 16th Century monk who protested against the wrongs of the Church, knew his share of trials, including a pandemic. His precious thirteen year old daughter, Lenchen, died during the plague, almost paralyzing Luther and his wife, Katie, with grief. This was the second daughter they had lost.
Luther literally had a death sentence put on his head, so he lived much of his life under constant threat. At one point, he had to hide out in a castle, disguise himself, and go by the name ‘Junker George.’
He battled with depression, too, which he called ‘anfecthungen,’ afflicted on him by the devil. His struggles with these ‘dark nights of the soul’ are well documented today.
He was condemned by the church as a heretic. His teachings resulted in many bloody revolts, in which hundreds of peasants violently died, and for which he blamed himself.
He was mocked and his name was publicly slandered by many of the elites of his day. In some circles, he became a laughingstock.
His own supporters were much divided and hostile at times.
Luther greatly suffered physically from a severe bowel disease that eventually took his life.
Martin Luther was very close to suffering and death during his lifetime, perhaps more than we ever will be today. Nonetheless, on Christmas in 1534, at the dinner table, he shared this devotional thought with his family and friends from Luke 1:26-38:
We sustained a hurt through Adam’s fall. Through it all of us are tainted with sins and subject to death. But greater than this hurt is the blessing we receive through Christ. He became man Himself in order to redeem us from sin and death. The devil came close to us; but he did not come so close as to assume our nature. For although he fell through pride and thereupon persuaded man also to fall away from God, he nevertheless did not become man and did not come so close to us as did God’s Son, who became our flesh and blood.
Meditating on what it meant for God to become a real person, Luther realized that God comes closer to us than our pain.
Suffering comes near to us, but God actually became one of us. He put on our flesh and blood and shared our humanity. He became a man and became born of a woman.
Martin Luther realized God came closer to us than pandemics, death, bowel disease, controversy, slander, riots, death threats, fear, failure, division, depression, and the devil.
God came closer to save us than did the devil to ruin us. Life might have done its best to try to ruin us this year, it might have come frighteningly close, but not as close as God came to save us. How close did God come? He was born into our world in the Person of Jesus Christ. He became our flesh and blood, and you can’t get any closer than that!
Jesus is able to save us more than the devil is able to ruin us. Take it from me, we humans can do a pretty good job of ruining our lives! But my capacity to ruin doesn’t outdo God’s ability to redeem, for God has come much closer to me than the devil.
Often when I suffer, I instinctively begin to sing a song to myself. Music has the ability to get closer to my heart than even my trials. When his daughter died, Luther and his wife sang many songs to themselves to get through the pain. One song he sang the day after she died contained the words from Psalm 78:9, “Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.”
Not just the compassion of God comes to us at Christmas, but God himself comes to us. In fact, he comes just as low as we are, entering our world through the depths of a manger.
As 2020 ends and 2021 begins, we pray you would find God in the depths with you, no matter how low or long you’ve been there. Remember, and say to yourself, whatever you’re going through, “Jesus is closer to me than this.”
Merry Christmas from Holy Ghost Notes.