A Properly Sentimental Season: Celebrating Christmas from the Heart

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
December 23, 2020

This time of year, Christians celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a time of joy, thanksgiving; a time with family and friends. Indeed, it is a time filled with worship as we remember that glorious gospel truth: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” [John 1:14].

One thing, however, that Christians often fail to recognize at this time of year is the sweetness of Christmas. The sweetness of this season can easily be diminished by the temptations of busyness and materialism—the commercialization of Christmas has secularized the story of Christ’s birth. As part of our culture, Christians must realize how easily we can jettison the sweetness of Christmas and let the glory of this season be eclipsed by this secular world.

Indeed, at this time of year, there are competing sentimentalities vying for our affections. There is the sentimentality of a secularized Christmas—one that has happiness in the material goods associated with this time of year, whether that be presents, food, or the music we only hear in the month of December. There is, however, another kind of sentimentality—a sentimentality of the Christian faith and the Christian gospel. There is a sentimentality that is essential to our understanding of God’s love for us. There is a sentimentality necessary for Christmas.

Martin Luther was one figure in the history of the church who powerfully understood the glory and sweetness of Christmas. In fact, he understood sentiment as necessary, for it was revealed in the nativity stories contained in Matthew and Luke. There was a tenderness, a sweetness, between Mary and Joseph. There was a sweetness in the heart of Mary as she responded to the angel Gabriel with submission and obedience. There is a beauty in the lowly nature of Jesus’ birth—the second person of the Trinity, the very Son of God, the eternal Logos lay swaddled in a manger.

Luther wanted Christians to see this sweet narrative of God’s inestimable love. The one who spoke the world into being became the baby in Bethlehem’s manger. He condescended in unimaginable humility to become the son of Mary. He did not come into the world with the grandeur given to worldly princes and princesses. The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever was that tiny infant held in his mother’s arms. This was the savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ. He had come to rescue us from our sin.

To capture this sweetness, Martin Luther wrote a song for his own children at Christmas. The song concludes with these words:

This King is but a little child,
His mother blessed, Mary mild.
His cradle is but now a stall,
yet he brings joy and peace to all.

Now, let us all with songs of cheer,
Follow the shepherds and draw near,
to find this wondrous gift of Heav’n
The blessed Christ whom God hath giv’n.

To each of you, Merry Christmas. May you celebrate Christmas in all of its wonder, in all of its glory, in all of its grandeur—yes, in all of its sweetness. May you be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Christ and may you proclaim that Christ as indeed come. Tell the wholeness of the story of Christ this season. Teach it to your children and your grandchildren. Sing Christmas carols and sing them with gusto.

Celebrate the true sentiment of Christmas. Don’t miss the glory, the sweetness, of Christmas.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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