I have been away for awhile. Thank you for your patience, readers. But I have felt led to take a slightly different approach from my spiritual warfare emphasis, but it all ties in.
Christmas is huge. It is the economic engine that drives the next twelve months. It is a time of gathering families, with all the joy and sadness that pervades all of our relationships. It is a time of eating, drinking and being merry, even if the next day reminds a person that over-indulgence is not a good thing. It is a time of gifts, thank-you's and acknowledging the hard work of the passing year; some walk away feeling appreciated, and others walk away with a sense that just another year has gone by. It is a time of memories, with childhood's past being felt forcefully felt in the present; warmth and kindness mixed with loss makes such musings bitter-sweet.
Let's reconsider Christmas for a moment. Let me take you on a short journey first.
In his book, Bondi's Brother, Irving Roth recounts his horrific time at Buchenwald concentration camp as a young boy. I was privileged to hear him speak about nine years ago at a community event, where he spoke with high school students, and I took a group of my students to hear him. I later bought his book.
He told us that he knew what the Messiah looked like: He was black and He was white. That was the color of the two American soldiers who opened up the door of his barracks, and while they stood in horror looking at the people so terribly contained within, Roth was elated. He knew that liberation had come.
I have never forgotten that. He saw liberation in the two men standing there. He knew that they alone had the power to release him and the others who were suffering under the camp's regime. He didn't know their names, their rank nor their personalities. All he knew, and all he really needed to know is that he was now free, because a greater power had descended into the camp and the evil there now had its days numbered. The regime was going to be torn down: gates would be opened, the crematoria would stop, the gassing would stop and life now had hope of going on. Fear was no longer the dominant force in the lives of the inmates.
Of course, the liberation of the camps was a long process of release and rehabilitation of the inmates there. Germany had many camps to liberate as the American made their way across, having landed on the beaches of Normandy, with no guarantee of success, given how entrenched the Germans were. 10,000 men lost their lives on D-Day; with many more soldiers over the months to die as well.
The Red Army found the eastern European camps; they also had to be liberated one by one.
But in the midst of liberation, a war equally had to be won. The soldiers were fighting the enemy and freeing the captives. It was an epic task. Such evil doesn't just say, "Oh, well. Here comes the Allies. Let's just lay down arms and hope for the best." The German army and the SS were going to fight to secure victory. The Allies were going to fight to secure victory.
The Allies also had to set people free as they went.
In other words, the Allies had a two-front war, as it were: victory to secure and liberation to provide. They couldn't go up to the camps' occupants and say, "Hey, folks, we are fighting a war, and we will come back for you when we are done. So, hang on, OK?" The suffering was so overwhelming, the soldiers did the best they could to alleviate the suffering in the midst of a war that wasn't going to be over quickly.
Now, let's reframe Christmas. Many people do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, because His coming did not inaugurate the peace on earth that the Messiah's kingdom promises in the Bible. In fact, the last 2,000 years has been anything but peaceful and the 20th century alone saw 100 million people killed by war and genocide.
"Peace on earth, good will to men" seems almost a mockery. Or is it?
Think of Christmas as D-Day. Jesus lands on the shores of earth, as a Soldier. He is fully on planet earth, arrayed in the uniform of our frail flesh. He walks up from the beach and death and destruction surround Him: The screaming of babies slaughtered in Bethlehem rings in the night. The wailing of mothers echoes through the narrow streets of a village forever changed.
He must escape the evil king Himself. So to Egypt He flees with His parents; they wait to return.
Even when they do, they go to another village, because the evil king's son now rules.
Just because He arrived on the shores of an occupied earth, the prince of this world wasn't going to say, "Oh, well. Here comes the Son. Let's call this war off, and just lay down our malevolent influence and hope for the best." Satan and his minions were going to fight to secure victory over this Man. They knew what His presence meant: the days of their regime were numbered. A Power greater than themselves has arrived, fully prepared and fully committed to see their regime collapse.
Meanwhile, as the Son was fighting to retake this planet--one soul at a time--He couldn't say to the sick, the demon-possessed, the lonely, the broken, "Hey! Can you just hang on while I secure the planet? I am going to be crucified in a few years, and then My power will be evident and available to all who put their trust in Me. So, hang in there, OK?"
No, Jesus liberated those who were suffering under this evil regime. He opened up the gates and touched people, seeking to stop the illness, the death, the pain, the loneliness and hopelessness that permeated this planet, all the while fighting to secure victory over sin and death.
World War II was not over the day the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy. Fierce fighting awaited the soldiers; many would die as they took Europe back from Hitler, one village, one country at a time.
But what did hit the beaches that day was HOPE. It was HOPE that Roth saw standing in the doorway of his barracks that day.
On that first Christmas, HOPE stood in the doorway of the barracks of Concentration Camp Earth.
HOPE said the evil regime's days were and are numbered.
HOPE said that good will prevail. Peace on earth is possible. Why?
The War for this World started that first Christmas. While this war still rages all around us, we now have HOPE. Why? We now have JESUS.