Those who trust and follow Jesus aren’t lead to a playground, but placed on the battlefield.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-5
I have to confess, I’ve been dragging my feet a little when it comes to putting out the Christmas decorations this year. Fighting with tangled lights and hunting down burned-out bulbs feels nothing like worship to me. And really, this season is, and should be, all about Jesus. To exalt reindeer, snowmen, and Santa Claus is to exalt lesser things along with Jesus. It clouds the issue and defiles our worship. The holidays should be fun – a time of celebration – but make no mistake, there is and always has been a war going on; and here we are in the midst of it.
“Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright.” That’s the picture of the arrival of Jesus that we cherish; that’s the model that sits perched on our mantlepiece in a twelve piece set. We will easily see the cross of Jesus as his sacrifice, but we miss the significance of his birth – the sacrifice he made to walk in our world. We are told in Hebrews 2:17 that Jesus “had to be made like his brothers in every way” and that is perhaps the greater sacrifice.
Jesus is God, and though we are created in his image (in our soul), he took on our image (the limitations of our flesh) so that he could go to the cross. He who was spirit and lived unbound by time or space took on a body and entered both time and space to set free the captives of sin who lived under law. Jesus entered enemy territory on a rescue mission in an obvious act of war.
“And the dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she did give birth he might devour her child”
Now that’s a view of the Nativity you won’t find on a mantlepiece. The dragon swept a third of the stars away – a third of the heavenly host rallied to his cause. This is the birth of Jesus from heaven’s perspective, and it looks like war. Constantly, throughout his life and ministry Jesus would battle calloused legalism, defiant demons, the brokenness of the world and the unbelief of the people. Eventually, he would make the ultimate sacrifice and give his life on the cross in order to break open the gates of hell and set the captives free.
Those who trust and follow Jesus aren’t lead to a playground, but placed on the battlefield. “Put on the full armor of God,” “Resist the devil and he will flee,” “Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.” This does not paint a picture of a nice little life nor a tidy Christianity. In following Jesus there is sacrifice, there is toil, there is suffering; there is also glory to be witnessed and celebrated.
Part of our battle is to not lose sight of Jesus. Amid all the trappings of the holidays it is easy to blur Jesus into the backdrop of pageantry this season brings with it. Don’t let it happen! Every feast and festival of the Old Testament was designed to teach of God’s character and work among his people, and to look ahead to God’s faithfulness yet to be revealed in Messiah. Jesus, the Messiah, has fulfilled all of those, and our holiday worship must teach of hos love and faithfulness and must still look ahead to his glorious appearing – either at the rapture, or in the daily events of our lives.
It may be a battle to sift through long-held traditions and prune the ones that obscure your view of Jesus. It may be laborious to intentionally ascribe meaning to other traditions and use them to teach the next generation, but look at all Jesus has given for you! In a war, those unwilling to fight have surrendered to the enemy and forfeited the hope of victory. Will your holidays be an act of war? Worship offered to the Lord your God? Or will they be an act of surrender and a forfeiture of the good fight to which we are called?
The birth of Jesus was not a cute sentiment, it was a rescue mission. God reached into our world to save us from sin and death. If we are to love one another as Jesus loves us, then how will you reach into someone else’s life to bring some much-needed hope?
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