“Christmas time is here,
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year
“Snowflakes in the air
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share
“Sleigh bells in the air
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there
“Christmas time is here
We’ll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year…”
So we are reminded by the Peanuts Gang… Even one of our songs (my favorite Christmas choral song of all time), Christmastide, proclaims that Christmas is a time when “Peace, and love, and hope abide.” Who doesn’t think of Christmas as a time of peace and tranquility? Certainly that’s what we see portrayed in movies, read about in stories, and hear sung on the radio. But “Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more…” So suggested one of the greatest philosophers of our day: Theodore Geisel (more commonly known as Dr. Seuss).
I think too often we allow non-scriptural references to infect our doctrine (I was having a conversation about this yesterday with someone, actually!), and our understanding of Christmas (and it’s impact) is no different. Too much of our belief about what Christmas was (and is) are drawn more from Silent Night and Away in a Manger than they are from Scripture. Read how the birth of Christ is described by the Apostle John….
Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving birth. Then I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth. He stood in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born. She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne. Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven…And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus. (Rev 12:1-5, 7-8, 18)
What happened in Matthew when the King learned of the birth of Jesus? “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.” (2:16)
John Eldredge writes, “The birth of Christ was an act of war, an invasion. The Enemy knew it and tried to kill him as a babe.” This morning Pastor quoted Matthew 16:18 when Jesus said to Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” This is not an image of defense for the church, but of offense. Too often Christians think this verse paints the picture of us standing inside a walled city, resting in peace and tranquility, and that Satan can’t get through the defenses (so we respond by relaxing in some tropical paradise). But that image couldn’t be further from the truth!
The image is one of war – of a fierce battle, where we are soldiers on the offense attacking the walled fortress (we’re on the outside) – and it’s a promise that the “gates of Hell” won’t withstand the onslaught! It is not an image of resting in a tropical paradise, but of residing on a battlefield deep behind enemy lines – a place where most of us have never been and those who have would tell us we don’t ever want to go. Yet that is exactly where Christ (and Christmas) places us.
When was the last time you ever thought, read, or heard about that understanding of Christmas? We’ll look at this a little more next week.