What were the times like that first Christmas? Certainly the first public proclamation of Jesus’ birth by the angel to the lowly shepherds was a sign of ‘good news and great joy for all the people’ (Luke 2: 10). It is no coincidence that lowly shepherds were given the honor as the first recipients of the royal proclamation representing the poor, the weak, the marginalized, those out in the proverbial cold and dark of society. It is no coincidence that the worldly powerful had to blindly grope for any morsel of news about this atomic bomb of history. And to the shepherds, this Jesus born in solidarity with them revealed a glimpse into the resplendent glory of the heaven awaiting. Thousands of angels voiced praise to the Most High, Who was now wrapped in rags. It was cause for rejoicing, for the Savior’s birth was ‘for them’ (Luke 2:11), those with rags for armor and pain for comfort.
But there was treachery and scheming going on. A lurking and real danger moved in the shadows. For the hard work of redeeming a lost people; blind, deaf, crippled, possessed, poor and wretched is a war. It is a fight for the dignity and liberation of each person, yes, for exploited pregnant women and their dehumanized babies. This work, while pure joy for those saved, is vile to the politically powerful and met with vitriol. “Then an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him” (Matthew 2: 13). Herod, realizing that the magi who were supposed to report back had tricked him, ordered all the male children two years old and younger within the vicinity of Bethlehem be killed (Matthew 2: 12, 16-18).
The book of Revelation clarifies what was really happening with Herod and the nativity, “And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth so that when she gave birth he might devour the child” (Rev 12:4b).
The following days, those between Jesus’ birth and His second coming, those times in which you and I now live, are described like this, “And there was war in heaven . . . And they [the believers] overcame him [the great dragon] because of the blood of the lamb [Jesus’ death on the cross] and because of the word of their testimony [how Jesus had freed them from bondage to sin], and they did not love their life even when faced with death” (Revelation 12: 7a, 11). Christmas is a war and the war rages on. The nativity is a battleground for every life.
It is a battle for the soul; the restoration of each human to God is what the cross is all about. And the call of the believer is no different. We are called to the same self-sacrifice on behalf of others, loving God and others more than even our own life. As the Apostle Peter says, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (I Peter 2: 21). The salvation of others depends on our ability to follow Christ so well, to be so much like heaven as to be unrecognizable by a fallen world, to be so enamored with the glory of God that we consider our suffering in this life as joy in comparison.
Christians are uniquely suited to know who those in bondage are because we also were in bondage. Christians are uniquely suited to understand the plight of the poor and powerless because we too were once poor and found true wealth. And now, so armed with this heavenly virtue of forgiveness and sacrifice found in Christ, the Christian ventures back into the bowels of this cavernous world to face the evil and free its slaves because that is what the King has done for him.
A woman is at risk for abortion because she is a casualty of war, oppressed by a twisted culture, offering death as a solution. A culture bent in on itself, unable to offer hope and real help. She is coerced, pressured to make a decision alone, pursued by fear . . . and the life of her baby hangs in the balance. Our joy is to set her free, to help her insulate her baby from the elements of this stormy world. This is Christmas; hers and ours, the morning star on the edge of night. These are the circumstances for joy, the circumstances that define generosity and the gospel of life.
Merry Christmas! To give online click here.