Martin Luther's Christmas sermon is not one sermon. He preached on the nativity for a period for 30 years, and often a dozen times a year, beginning with Advent and carrying through to Epiphany. And sometimes we have three versions of one sermon. On Saturday, he wrote what he intended to say. On Sunday, his students took down what he did say. And on Monday, he wrote out what he wished he'd said.
I've gone through the whole body of that material and selected a paragraph here and a paragraph there, and weaved them together. Luther strips away all the legendary accretions of the Middle Ages. A very lush growth had attached itself to the Christmas story throughout the centuries. For example, on Christmas Eve at midnight, all the animals in the wood knelt in honor of the CChild. That in , there was a rose blooming. That when the holy family went down into Egypt, the palm trees bent over so that Joseph could more readily pick the grapes. That instead of one star, there appeared three in the sky in honor of the holy trinity. And that angel Gabriel brought a wedding contract from God the Father Almighty to be signed by the Virgin Mary.
Legends were built up also in regard to the wise men. In our first pictorial representation, there are two. In the next, four. And then the number becomes stereotyped at three. At first they ride on camels. But after they moved west, they had horses. And when stirrups were introduced in the eighth century, the wise men are properly equipped. Then they turn into kings, and their feast was called "The day of the three kings."
In the period of the Renaissance, when it was discovered that Africa was a continent, the three continents, Africa, Asia and Europe were divided between the ...