An Advent of Power
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. (John 14:26-31)
Now we light the candle of power.
The incarnation without the ascension is the manifestation of weakness, a concept of which we are most comfortable – God in a box, Jesus the Helpless. When Fischer Price is willing to make a Little People manger scene but not an empty tomb you can tell what the world is ok with and what it is not. If the world felt threatened by Christmas as we know it we would not have the celebration we do – note the limited response of the world to Easter or Good Friday. The world does not treat this Christian holiday the same as it treats any other, and that should tell us either that the something is very right with society as it deeply embraces the message of the gospel… or something is very wrong with our presentation of heaven invading earth.
Everyone on the night of Jesus’ birth or before it occurs is overcome with sheer terror. Don’t take my word for it.
Shepherds: Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified (Luke 2:9)
Mary: The angel said to Mary, don’t be afraid (Luke 1:30)
Joseph: Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife (Matt. 1:20)
Zechariah (John the Baptist’s birth heralding Jesus): When Zechariah saw [the angel], he was terrified (Luke 1:12)
Let’s not forget the Satanic realization of something happening which had to be stopped, the working of that evil through governmental authority and the infanticide from which the holy family barely escaped because of an angelic appearance (Matt. 2:13-18). Heaven didn’t take Christmas lightly. Neither did hell. All the forces of darkness and light waged a furious battle in the spiritual world – which broke through the earthly one – over this Child. And for good reason.
Christmas means that we are not alone. The invasion has occurred. What is a good image? If America had smuggled in an atomic bomb to the French resistance – something like that. Light has shown in the darkness and – hear – the darkness has not overcome it. God is with us. We are His and He is ours and nothing and no one can stop now the path of history propelling with increasing speed towards the second revelation of Jesus, not now in the pattern of our humble estate but the astounding magnitude of His glorified one. How it began is how it ends – Jesus says, the prince of the world is coming. And he has no hold on Me. Evil tried to kill Jesus after His birth. Evil tried to throw Jesus off a temple as an adult. Evil entered Judas and thought to finally end Christmas at the cross. Oh Christmas was ended all right. Because now the birth of One unleashed the possible new birth of all and the death of One meant no one would really ever have to die again.
Remember the word which says And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. (Col. 2:15). The “powers and authorities” here are demonic beings – see the book “Powers of Darkness” for Clinton Arnold’s scholarship demonstrating this in the context of Paul’s readers. In other words the best laid plans of hell are no match for the power of God. Christmas – and the cross that followed – proves that it doesn’t matter how clever our enemy is. We have Christ. And both His birth and His death showed every believer who would follow in His steps that God’s plan for our lives cannot be, will not be, could not possibly be, thwarted by even the highest levels of energy and evil directed against us.
Christmas wrecked everything for the kingdom of darkness. What else does it mean that the “kingdom of heaven is here” but that the kingdom of hell is no more.
So we light the candle of power, really. Because peace and hope and joy and love all are impossible without the ability to make those things real, and to make those things real in a world of hate and anger and fear and rage means that whatever power is behind the good must obviously be superior to the power behind the wrong. All the attributes we hold dear are really signs pointing us to the strength of God as greater than the sin of man and the strategy of Satan.
Christmas is powerful because without this invasion of time and space by the One who made it we couldn’t rest assured of a future otherwise out of our control or a past beyond our penance to repair. We needed someone greater than the world to become as small as it to restore all that was lost and help us find all that could be.
So we praise God for Christmas. Not because it is nice. Because it was necessary. And there’s a big difference between those two approaches to this season.
So celebrate! But celebrate well. And wisely. Everything changed because of Christmas. May Christmas change everything for us.