This year we are pleased to add a new Christmas card to our collection: http://sjfiremuseum.org/wp-includes/images/css.php God Most High. Here the holy family is depicted in stunning stained glass, gathered together with shepherds in adoration of the Christ child. The inside text is Stanza 3 of Martin Luther’s Christmas hymn, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come”:
This is the Christ, our God Most High,
Who hears your sad and bitter cry;
He will Himself your Savior be
From all your sins to set you free.
Luther wrote the text of this hymn in 1534 as a sort of pageant or Christmas devotion for his own family. In fact, this particular stanza is addressed to the shepherds as part of “an extended paraphrase of the words of the angel from Luke 2:11–12. Luther goes beyond a simple retelling of the story to emphasize the great joy that comes from knowing that Jesus came ‘from all your sins to set you free,'” as Pr. W.H. Otto observes in a Lutheran Witness article from 2009. His entire article is worth reading to understand the hymn’s structure and how its writing was influenced by the 14th-century medieval folk tradition of the garland song.