stripped christmas tree

A few years ago Matthew Harrison published this sermon by Hermann Sasse for the 3rd Sunday in Advent.  It was preached a long time ago and should be reread, preached, taught and inwardly digested.

Therefore, let everyone consider us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now, it is required of a steward that he be found faithful. To me it is a small thing to be judged by you, or by any human court.”  What an earnest word for the servants of the church. No, for the whole church! What have we theologians done with the mysteries of God in recent centuries – with the mystery of the incarnation!
Surely, we wouldn’t want to lose the mystery. One would only want to understand it better and make it more plausible. But the end result is that we lose all mystery and God’s mystery. Look how the 19th century turned the mighty faith of the Reformation and the old evangelical church into a civic religion at which nobody took offence any more. The confession of the church was stripped like a Christmas tree. Nothing useful was really left except an old bit of wood. “He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.” That, the enlightened citizens of the l9th century couldn’t take to anymore. Therefore, discard it. So it went on, one after the other – the death of Christ as an atonement for sin, the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead, his sitting at the right hand of God from where he would come to judge the living and the dead. It all went by the board. The Holy Spirit as true God also went. The Holy Trinity, everything, everything was given away. That is the basic reason for the decline of the evangelical church in Germany. Need we be surprised then that the people discarded the contents of our divested faith like a piece of old clothing? What is called today the myth of the 20th century is really only the fruit of the destruction of the teaching of the church. We think we have been good theologians – we who no longer hold the mysteries of the Christian faith in trust. What are we pastors, what are we teachers of theology without the congregation? And where was the congregation? Where is it today? When we read the shocking reports of the evangelical churches in which worship, communion, holy baptism, confirmation instruction and the like are all slowly dying, it breaks one’s heart. How will our state churches look in 30 years’ time?  How will this church look? Yes, God can and will keep his church from all who would destroy it. Christ can and will protect his church also today. But he does it through the faithfulness of those who believe in him. You mothers who these days will be surrounded by your children at Christmas; you fathers whose children perhaps no longer learn to read the bible in school, – we know what God expects in the way of
faithfulness. The 19th century was able to come up with the shocking sentence:  “Religion is a private, personal matter.”: The Christian Faith has never been a private personal matter. Jesus Christ is no private personal matter. He is no private, or personal Savior, but the Savior of the world. He will come again openly to judge the living and the dead, the members of his church and all people, the German
people and all peoples! You young people, eagerly looking toward the future – do you really think the church is a lost cause, believing In Jesus Christ, in a message and man from the past? No, if there is anything in the world which has a future, it is the church. Perhaps it will be a future hard for any of us to imagine. But it willhave a future when everything that men can imagine or paint is gone. For the future
of the church is the future of Christ. She wanders through the anxiety and distress of this world from his first advent to his last, from his incarnation to his return. Yes, the future of our Lord Jesus Christ – that is the blessed future ofthe church.