A Sermon by

Dr. Walter A. Maier

The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” 1John 4:14

O CHRIST CHILD, THOU  MIRACLE OF THE MANGER;  If only, singing with the power and purity of angels, we could worthily proclaim the mystery and mercy of Thy birth! If only here on this earth of sin and sorrow we could praise Thee with the exalted strains of heavenly glory for Thine incarnation  at Bethlehem! Contritely we entreat Thee, our Immanuel, Thou God of grace with us: let Thy renewing, regenerating Spirit purify our minds and hearts and lips, so that on this day before Christmas we may be guided to give ourselves wholly to Thee who didst come to save us from our sins! Help us prepare to approach Thy manger with the deep realization of our utter unworthiness, but with stronger assurance of Thine endless compassion! In Thy limitless love remember during this holiday season the poor, burdened, underprivileged, lonely, deserted, the wounded and prisoners of war, the sick and dying! By the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in their sorrow-filled hearts, show them that by Thy coming into our flesh, afflictions are turned to joy for all who humbly believe! Make us a deeply penitent nation! Bring America close to Thee this Christmas! Keep Thy children in the armed forces from sin and the sorrow of despair! Forgive our enemies their trespasses, as Thou forgivest us ours, we beg, confessing our sins, but trusting in Thy marvelous mercy! Hear us, Thou Son of the Almighty, as we, too, sing, “Glory to God, peace on earth, good will to men!” Amen!

    Tonight, on Christmas Eve, when aging centuries ago angels sang, “Peace on earth,” American boys and their German enemies will be killed on Belgian battlefields; and tomorrow the saddest Christmas they have ever known will dawn for millions in Europe and Asia.  Refugees, only recently returned to their ruined homes, will again trudge through muddy roads on the Savior’s birthday, like Mary and Joseph, without the warmth and shelter of their own dwelling. Throughout a weary world the anniversary of Jesus’ birth will find more houses damaged and destroyed, more children diseased and dead, more civilians maimed and killed than in any previous year. God might have shortened these six years of strife, spared the nations much misery and horror, if only even those who call themselves Christians had humbled themselves and turned trustingly to His mercy. For here is His promise: “If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Oh, that in Berlin and other enemy centers masses had contritely turned to the Lord in the repentance which kneels trustfully before the Christ Child! Oh, that within our own gold-glutted borders multitudes of the drink-dazed, lust-crazed, to whom the years of war have become a steady spending spree, had learned of the Savior’s mercy and had worshiped at the manger! Dictators and directors of international affairs, some of them atheists and outspoken infidels, blindly claim that they are the masters of their fate, cost what this boasting pride may in the lifeblood and death agonies of their followers! Because in our world of wanton killing and in this age of aching hearts it is still true and always will be that “Jesus Christ…is our Hope”; because mankind as a whole, including you and me as individuals, is lost without faith in Bethlehem's Babe, I ask you to make today and tomorrow periods of prayer in which with your whole hearts you plead: “Father, let this be the last wartime Christmas! Spread the peace in the newborn Redeemer to all men, for Jesus’ sake!”

    During these heavy days Christmas dare not be a time of endless eating and drinking, godless carnival and carousal.  As I wish everyone, especially you, the sick and incapacitated, and you, the fathers and mothers with sons in distant lands, a God-blessed, Christ-centered holy day, not holiday, I tell you in earnestness that this year Christmas should be different, a festival of repentant rededication to the Redeemer, a time of nationwide consecration of God’s Son and Mary’s. Therefore come, America, join the soul pilgrimage to Bethlehem, kneel before the cradled Infant, and learn this heaven-sent lesson of comfort for the burdened, conviction for the doubting, courage for the fearful, confidence for the uncertain, companionship for the lonely, compassion for the heavy laden; the truth which gives this birthday its promise of eternal peace in a world of war when, pointing to the Babe in the manger, it declares:


That is the pledge of our Christmas text, these twelve triumphant worlds recorded in First Saint John, chapter four, verse fourteen, “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”


    This assurance, the highest and holiest message that even angels can proclaim, is given us in plain language. When you stand before the manger, you need no secret rites, no concealed ceremonies, no mysterious initiations, no hard, hidden truths which only masterminds can grasp. The creed which points to the Christ Child is not a complicated, difficult system; it is simplicity itself: “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” How utterly traitorous, then, for a church to advertise that the Bible is a dark, concealed volume which only its leaders can interpret; that Scripture in reality is a dangerous book from which you had better keep your distance unless you are one of the favored few who have the key to its understanding! When you hear clear passages of Holy Writ like these, most of them in one-syllable words: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”; again: “God sent His only-begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him”; again” “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life”; again: “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost”; again” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” do you fail to understand these promises? It is not necessary to have a college diploma or a divinity-school degree; indeed, you need not be able even to read or write to recognize what our text means when it states this sacred sum and substance of our creed: “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior.” If you believe this with all your heart, you may be a Protestant, a Catholic, or of Jewish birth; first of all, however, you are a Christian. If, however, you deny this climax truth of the Nativity, you may be a doctor of divinity, doctor of theology, a doctor of applied religion; one thing is certain: you are not Christ’s. I would not be true to the responsibility imposed by this mighty broadcast if I did not ask you to cling to this truth as the foundation of your faith and to drop everything men teach in opposition.

    When we read these words at Christmas time, “The Father SENT the Son to be the Savior,” they help us realize that there is a divine and perfect plan of salvation, older than the ages, decreed before the beginning of human history. Jesus’ advent was not by chance. It was not accidental that Caesar Augustus issued the census decree for taxation. Bethlehem was not the result of a haphazard guess. The manger was foreordained. Our Lord was born at the right place, at the right time, under the right circumstances, because all this was the Father’s loving will. Take comfort in His divine government; for once you have entrusted your soul to the Savior, every difficulty which crowds in upon you comes by His sovereign permission and compassion. As Christ had to humble Himself and suffer if mankind was to be rescued, so we who love Him must often be brought to our knees if we are to be saved from ourselves, our pride, our rejection of Heaven’s help. What glorious comfort can be yours in knowing that through the incarnation God has a plan for your life, a program, which even though it may take you down into the depths of pain, always leads forward, onward, and upward to salvation! What surpassing comfort to realize that wars, in which the Almighty inflicts terrifying punishment on scoffers, are for believers cleansing, purifying afflictions! The Holy Spirit grant that the price we have paid for the struggle — $97,000,000,000 this year in the United States alone, not counting the far greater, irreplaceable loss of life and of souls — will not be expended in vain, but that millions in our country will turn from evil to God! If this horrifying mass destruction does not shake America into repentance and recognition of the Lord, how soon may an even greater terror overtake us?

    Now we come to the central fact of Christmas: “The Father sent the Son.” Who can measure the mercy contained in these five words? I have never heard of an American father who deliberately told his son to leave home and enlist in the World War; yet if some fathers actually did this, they earnestly hope that their boys will return unscathed. However, the Lord of Lords sent His Son, knowing in advance that the hatred of hell and the madness of sin-cursed men would be mobilized against Him: that He would be despised more than any other figure in history; that He would be crucified in the cruelest treachery the earth has ever witnessed; that He would die the blackest of all deaths. Yet, with a love far too overwhelming for our puny minds, the Father made that awful sacrifice. He gave His Son for us, and the Savior deliberately descended into the world of want, which had no room for Him when he was born and no room for Him when He lived His life of atoning love.

    How merciful, too, every aspect of His advent! He was born of Mary, to exalt womanhood and show mothers that their best, most blessed influence is in their family. He came as a child, to emphasize that babies are the gifts of God, the most sacred earthly responsibilities parents can ever have. He came to earth in a defeated, devastated country, to teach millions in our war-blasted world that there can be opportunity and promise, even despite reverse and calamity. He was born in a stable, to show the poor, who will always be with us despite the promises of false theorists, that He knows their suffering and can help them. He was first worshiped by shepherds, and this is the guarantee to America’s working man that He, Himself a laborer, is the Friend of the toiling classes. Never has the world witnessed a humiliation such as that which marked our Lord’s birth, when he exchanged heaven’s indescribable glory for our pain and poverty.

    There must have been a mighty purpose behind Jesus’ coming-and there was. Our text explains, “The Father sent the Son TO BE THE SAVIOR.’ This is the heart of the Bethlehem blessing, the center of the Bible, the prediction of the Old Testament, the fulfillment of the New, the record of the Gospels and the revelation of the Epistles. Prophets foretold it; angels announced it; Apostles preached it; Christ Himself proclaimed it: “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior.” Plainly, then, the world had to be saved. Ten years ago Modernist preachers laughed at us when with Scripture we insisted on the total depravity of the human race, the utter sinfulness of all men; but they do not laugh now. After American prisoners have been machine-gunned; after soldiers have been instructed in the quickest method of gouging out enemies eyes; after civilians by the tens of thousands have been bombed, and children, often prematurely born, the innocent victims of invasion, defeat, and civil war, have dropped dead from starvation, those who cried the loudest that men are too good and kind to need rescue are quiet now as they survey filth, vice, unnatural crimes and see the sacred pledges of marriage mocked, girls raped in our national capital, seduced in every city and town; women running around with other men while their husbands serve the nation far across the Atlantic or the Pacific; headline entertainers quarreling in court over illegitimate children. Think of the people who profiteer by helping lead soldiers and sailors into sin! List the merchants of death who heap up greater gains the longer war lasts! Catalog the large company of those who glorify bloodshed, promote racial hatred, champion militarism, endorse power politics, justify imperialistic aggression! Even more, see how the Almighty has been pushed aside, the Bible barred, Gospel truth outlawed by some world leaders! Recall the unnumbered crimson battles from the dawn of history until the present moment, arraying men against each other, who if left to themselves would often have no disagreement! And in the face of all this who can deny that humanity needs to be saved?

    It is not necessary to search far afield for proof that the race had to be redeemed.  You and I have convincing evidence of that in our own souls. As you behold Bethlehem’s Babe, I ask you, “Are there not within you dark impulses, hate-filled motives, selfish yearnings, envious thoughts, lustful longings, even during this joy-filled Christmas season? Has your life not been marked by repeated transgressions, some hidden, others public?” Orators may speak of mankind as noble, but I tell you today that without the Savior men are foul and filthy, brutal and bestial. Poets may praise the heart as the fountain of goodness; but I insist that without the Son of God the heart is a source of vice, a cesspool of iniquity.

    Now if the world was to be saved, evil had to be conquered and removed from our lives. Heaven’s Law had to be fulfilled, the demands of divine righteousness met, the legions of hell defeated. And who could perform these superhuman tasks? Name the acclaimed leaders of the nations, select the most brilliant minds, choose the mightiest, most influential figures in history, put them all together, and then know that their combined efforts, plans, appeals, sacrifices could not cleanse their own lives, let alone remove a single sin from your conscience! Men can kill and cripple each other; or by grace from above they can rescue their fellow men, as the heroic flier who last week came down near a burning tanker, saved a score of sailors, and flew off without leaving his name. A thrice-blessed Christmas to him! But no human being can save souls. According to God’s perfect pattern for pardon, His own and only Son had to do the humanly impossible, but the divinely assured. He had to become man to take upon Himself the iniquity of us all, to unburden our hearts from damning guilt and eternal punishment. And, praise His mercy, Jesus did become as one of us to rescue us from ourselves, to forgive each of our transgressions, especially those which even during Christmastide stir us with unrest. An Iowa woman writes me that she is torn by torment because her employer died without her ever having urged him to accept the Redeemer. Now she feels that his soul is on her conscience. Even if it were, I tell her, and all troubled by similar sorrows, that God'’ Son accomplished full redemption; that He is not a partial Deliverer who cancels some of your guilt and charges the rest against you, not a selective Savior who chooses which of your transgressions He wants to remove, but an all-atoning Substitute for whom no evil is too big, black, blasphemous, or bloody. At Bethlehem holy angels declared, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,” As you stand in spirit at the manger, will you place your reason, fears, emotions over the divine word and the angelic assurance to say, “Oh, yes, Jesus is a Redeemer, but my sins are too terrible”? Humble yourself! Believe God! Trust the Gospel grace, and “the truth shall make you free”!

    He came to save surely, positively, certainly. Don’t conclude that the Blessing of Bethlehem is merely a theory of wishful thinking! Don’t be a skeptic satisfied to concede that the Christ Child may or may not be Savior, Prophet, Priest, King! Human promises often exaggerate. Someone sent me a Christmas card that had won a prize in a national artists’ competition. It bears the title” “A Star of Hope is Arisen,” and pictures a weird, naked creature, certainly not an angel, floating over the earth with the Four Freedoms. But to promise people today that after this war will come a fear-free, wantless age for every human being is a cruel mistake. Unless the Holy Spirit completely overrules men’s wickedness, cringing terror, starvation, heartbreaking need will reign over vast postwar areas. We learned last week that no formal Atlantic Charter exists to guarantee those Four Freedoms; but be sure of this: There is a Bethlehem Charter. Every one of you can find it in your Bible, the Covenant witnessed by angels and men, more real than the fact that I now speak to you. Wars will continue to be waged; but the battle Jesus fought for our eternal freedom is over forever. It was concluded when on the cross he cried, “It is finished,” and when He rose triumphantly from the grave.

    And here is the crown jewel in the diadem of our Christmas confidence: Our Lord came to save us by grace, without demanding price or payment, condition or qualifications, reward or recompense. It may be hard for some of you to believe this when Christmas chocolates sell for $3.00 and more a pound, Christmas handkerchiefs at $225, Christmas dressing robes at $500, Christmas fur coats at $24,000; when a New York jeweler tells newspaper readers of the “steady Christmas demand for the really expensive stuff from $75,000 and up.” Thank the Lord on bended knees today that your salvation is the gift of His grace; that His blood has paid the whole price for your title to the prepared place in the heavenly mansions; that though you may be poor and unnoticed, no prince, prime minister, or president can have a costlier Christmas remembrance than you, once the Savior is yours! To receive that gift, Heaven’s most blessed bestowal, remember—and you can never hear anything more important than this—you need only confess yourself a sinner and Christ your Redeemer. Will you refuse? Dare you refuse?

    God’s own Son came to save us from our enemies, from the legions of hell and their deadly agencies on earth. A distracted Pittsburgh listener writes: “I have a problem which I can’t get out of my mind, and I don’t know what to do. If I don’t get some relief, I am going to kill myself. My wife left me in October. Help me, I beg you.” While I appeal to you husbands and wives, parents and children, separated this Christmas week through your sin and selfishness, and ask you to overcome your pride and spend the Savior’s birthday with your dear ones, or at least telephone or telegraph them a word of reconciliation, I also assure you who suffer deeply at this happy season when merrymaking reigns in other homes: the Christ Child has come to share your burdens, remove your fears, wipe away your tears, comfort your sorrowing heart, and bring His light into the darkness of your grief. Don’t try to solve your problems without Jesus! Take all your anguish to Him whose name is “Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”! Believe that because the angelic evangel announced: “Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,” you, with the Savior’s strength, can defeat doubt, darkness, and disaster! As you behold God incarnate in the manger, realize that no weight is too heavy for His shoulders, which carry the government of the world, no pain too agonizing to be removed by Him of whom it is written, “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” You, the sick and afflicted, you, the distressed and peace-robbed, you, the heavy laden and bereaved, raise your hearts in rejoicing! Christmas has come for you, to plead that you stop worrying yourself into nervous breakdowns. Take the Almighty at His Word; through faith in this swaddled, outcast Babe you can have heavenly peace amid earth’s encircling sorrows!

    This calm in Christ holds especially for you, the gold star parents of America, whose souls are bleeding because your sons lie in unmarked graves or in deep oceans. Thank heaven with me today, you have Christmas; for if Jesus had not come, you might well surrender to despair! Raise your sorrowing spirits in reassurance as you behold the cradled Son of God and know that because He became as one of us, through faith, after death, we shall be “like Him” in the resurrection and the everlasting life. “Let not your heart be troubled,” Jesus says. He offers you this promise of eternal peace: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” God’s comfort sustain you with the triumphant reassurance of a blessed reunion before the heavenly throne!

    “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior,” In that truth lies the hope of America on this crisis Christmas when many hearts are heavy under the burden of war. If only across the broad continent our countrymen would turn to the newborn Redeemer and make the anniversary of His birth a time of repentance and rededication! The deep-rooted trouble today, however, is that America is feasting, not fasting, playing, not praying, resenting God’s Law, not repenting of its transgressions. We still have had no national day of repentance, with the sack-cloth-and-ashes humility of true contrition. Ten thousands of churches have featured Christmas plays, Christmas suppers, Christmas sales, but they have not summoned their members to fall on their knees, earnestly, personally, prayerfully, persistently to plead for the Father’s mercy and His Son’s guidance. Must this war create the cause for a third world conflict—if we go on without God, without repentance, but with reliance on ourselves, our military machines, and production power—or shall we win with God and reduce the prospects of further and savage slaughter? Part of the answer to the question which should stir the heart of every American lies in your attitude toward Jesus and His birth. The Holy Spirit grant that many of you will, by turning contritely to the Christ Child, stop increasing the nation’s guilt.


    One crown jewel of the Christmas faith still remains. Our promise reads, “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior OF THE WORLD.” Thank heaven for that all-inclusive promise which rules out forever the teachings of those who insist that the Babe in the manger came to redeem only a selected group, while the great mass of humanity is damned and rejected without having a chance to be delivered. No, read these words again: “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior OF THE WORLD” and praise God that this includes everyone in history’s past, present, and future! It would be marvelous mercy if the Savior were born to rescue one nation or race; but words fail us when we read repeatedly in the unbreakable Scriptures, “God so loved THE WORLD that he gave His only-begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If the Bible would tell us, “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of many men, most men, all men except one,” not a person on earth could have full assurance of salvation. You and I would think that we were the exceptions, since we could not understand how the Lord could be gracious to us with all our sins. Yet doubt and uncertainty are removed when you believe these plain but powerful words: “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world,” and therefore your Redeemer.

    See how this radio mission helps show Christ as the universal Savior when under the Holy Spirit’s guidance it fathers men and women of different countries, different languages, different stations in life! From Chile comes this appeal: “I want to plead with you for Christ’s sake to allow me to belong to your Church.” From Uruguay: “It was through the Lutheran Hour that I received Jesus as my own true Savior.” From Cuba: “Your messages are the doctrine I am teaching my children.” From Guatemala: “The tract you sent me was enough to convince my daughter and to lead her to accept the Lord.” From Colombia: “Through your broadcast some of us have come to know the Savior.” From Costa Rica” “I was a fanatical opponent of your Gospel, a manufacturer of images, but now I have turned to the Lord, realizing that I am saved by His grace alone.” From Ecuador: “I, who was once a singer in a cabaret, have now been brought to Christ through your broadcast. I am working for the Lord.” From the Dominican Republic: “Can you advise me how I, a former Buddhist, can prepare myself to serve the Lord?” From Hawaii: “Your broadcast has performed a miracle in my home, influencing my nephew and my two neighbors to be your members.” From Panama: “As for me, I am now convinced that we cannot live without Jesus any more.” In our own country, Hollywood  motion-picture actresses, soldiers, sailors, airmen, officers, privates, college deans, governors, bank presidents, industrialists, school teachers, white-collar clerks, day laborers, factory and defense workers, businessmen, artists, musicians, housewives, children, Negroes, Indians, Japanese, Chinese, patients in hospitals, inmates of insane asylums, prisoners in jails, these and many others have written me to express their faith in the Christ Child as the all-embracing Redeemer whose plan of salvation pushes aside the social, intellectual, racial and financial fences separating men from their fellow men. If only in this age of plenty for everyone stifled souls would be open to God’s Son, the horror, the hatred, the frequency of war would be restricted, and ours would be a changed world! If only you who greet this festival with resentment, bitterness of spirit, rankling envy, and family quarrel would find in the Christ who loved the world both the impulse and the power to love all men, including your enemies, you would have a happiness never known before.

    For every one of you, then, the most important of today’s and tomorrow’s questions is: “Do I believe that ‘the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of my soul? Have I earnestly, honestly, with my heart as well as my lips, confessed that this Babe at Bethlehem came to save me?” It is not easy to acclaim Jesus when half the people of the United States at this wartime Christmas have no more room for Him than the Judean innkeeper had; when some of the leaders who will write the peace and plan the programs for the postwar world hate God’s incarnate Son as Herod did; when those prominent in human affairs, moneyed, titled, applauded men, have shut the door against the Christ Child; when even proud, costly, powerful, imposing churches have cruelly contradicted the fact that he alone can save; when, in that softer, mellowed feeling which this holiday season brings even unbelievers, the world has room for everyone and everything except for Jesus and His Gospel. Yet if you believe the angels and kneel with the shepherds at the newborn Savior’s crib, I promise you in His name—and thousands of you can prove that what I say is true—this will be the most joyous and peace-blessed Christmas you have ever known.

    Therefore earnestly I plead with you who love God’s Son: Now that America needs all the exalting righteousness which the faith of consecrated citizens can furnish, help us bring the comfort and courage in Christ more personally to the masses through daily worship! Keep our city churches open for private meditation! Help introduce family devotions into many American homes, and show parents and children how our households should worship the Savior! Stretch the joy of His Nativity over every day, Christians of America, and God will mightily bless you!

    Many of you, however, who hear these words are without Jesus. You just happened to tune in this message, you say; but you are wrong there, for the Holy Spirit placed you before your radio to give you the Infant Redeemer’s invitation to light and salvation. Drop everything in the last-moment holiday business and excitement, and pay close attention as I tell you that Jesus Himself, your Savior, wants to make His birthday the birth of faith, joy, peace, strength, in your soul! George Moore, British financier, who had spent a Christmas Eve gambling, drinking, and carousing, came home half-drunken but all-ashamed of himself and stole upstairs without greeting anyone. Awakened by the carolers who sang the heart-moving message of God's Son and the Virgin'’, he was seized by repentance for his past wasted life. He remembered guiltily that he had almost brought his gray-haired father down to the grave with sorrow; as he heard of the newborn Redeemer's forgiving, restoring, rebuilding love, the Spirit sent a new resolve into his heart. From that moment he was a changed man. He went to night school and began to lay the foundation for an eminent career. The same Holy Comforter and Guide can work a similar change in you. Listen today, as the moving Christmas music broadcasts your Savior's mercy, and say to yourself, "“those songs sing Christ's love for me!” Listen tonight as the carolers raise their anthems, believe, “their hymns are meant for me!” Listen tomorrow as you hear the message of the manger in sermon or song—whatever else you do, be sure to attend a true church on Christmas day—and casting all doubt aside, let your soul rejoice, “Jesus came to save me!” Then, O blessed gift from heaven itself! The angels who once wafted their sacred chorus over Bethlehem below will sing celestial hymns of praise in Paradise above, because at Christmas you, the lost, have been saved, you, the strayed, have returned to your Redeemer. My beloved, the Holy Spirit grant every one of you this glorious grace through the newborn Savior! Amen!

Note: The preceding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired in December 1944 (From the book “Jesus Christ our Hope”.)