Adapted by Professor Emeritus Arnold Koelpin
Martin Luther liked to celebrate Christmas with the freshness and spontaneity of a child. He composed the Christmas hymn “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” to be enacted as a family Christmas pageant. Published in 1535, it may well have been written for the previous Christmas, when his son Hans was 8 and his daughter Lenchen was 5.
Imagine: Near the Christmas tree stood a cradle. Most likely Luther himself, with his fine tenor voice, took the part of the angel and sang stanzas 1-2, where the angel announced: “From heaven above to earth I come to bear good news to every home.” Perhaps his wife, Katie, continued the angel’s announcement in stanzas 3-4, and then together, in stanza 5, they invited the children to come to the cradle.
The Luther children, like shepherds, were probably waiting not far from the cradle: John (Hans), Elizabeth, Magdalena (Lenchen), Martin, Paul, and Margaret. “Look now, you children, at the sign” was their cue. They took up the song at stanza 6: “How glad we’ll be that it is so! With all the shepherds let us go.”
We can imagine them approaching the cradle, individually or together, as they sang each of the subsequent stanzas, marveling at the Christ-child and inviting him into their hearts. And finally, the entire family joined in the closing doxology of stanza 15: “Glory to God in highest heaven!”
You can reenact this inclusive and intimate family Christmas pageant in your home, whether you have just a few people or a large group. Find the pageant, with hymn stanzas and the easy-to-use instructions, at mlc-wels.edu/go/luther-christmas.