Christmas has always been my favorite holiday.
If I was super-spiritual I would tell you that I have always loved the holiday for it’s “true meaning,” a celebration of the birth of our King.
But honestly, I love the tree. And I love the presents. I love the lights, the music, the baking, and the day spent with family.
I love Christmas for the same reasons and the same way that most people love it.
This year, though, has been different.
Maybe it’s because I’m older. Or maybe it’s because I’m more aware of the horrors of the world.
Maybe it’s just timing. The juxtaposition of Christmas carols and news reports out of Aleppo. Of Christmas lights and rubbled cities. Of cheerful singing and the cries of weeping mothers.
It’s been hard to reconcile the two.
And so, I need to meditate on the “true meaning” of Christmas this year. The lights and the tree and the presents and the songs and even the cookies aren’t enough.
There’s too much suffering in the world. Too much evil.
So why does the birth of Jesus give me comfort in today’s world?
Because Jesus wasn’t just a baby born in a manger a couple millennia ago. It’s not just a miraculous birth. And it’s even more than the birth of a King.
I mean, it is all those things. But there’s a characteristic of Jesus that I’m particularly in need of.
Jesus is a Warrior.
It’s not an aspect of Jesus’s life and work that we focus on much. Maybe it’s because Christians have an innate distaste for warfare and militaristic language (or at least we should).
But the people of Israel were waiting for a Messiah who would fight for them, wage war against the occupying Roman army and liberate them.
The typical narrative of Jesus’s birth is that his messiahship wasn’t marked by war but was instead marked by peace. He wasn’t the warrior they were waiting for, but a savior.
That’s the typical narrative.
And it’s wrong.
God did send a Warrior-Messiah in Jesus Christ. This Warrior was just fighting a different army, engaged in different battles, waging a different war.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12-13)
This is what Paul reminded the church in Ephesus. We Christians are not at war with people and nation-states, we’re in a hidden war, pitched in spiritual battle.
Why would it be any different for our champion, the finisher and protector of our faith, Jesus Christ?
Jesus was born to wage war and wage war he did. He had to. Because he was a King.
And Kings bring Kingdoms.
And in order for one Kingdom to rise, another must fall.
Herod knew this to be true. This is why he wanted Jesus dead (Matthew 2:13). But Herod was thinking too small. Herod thought that Jesus would come for his petty throne.
In a sense, he was right. Jesus did want Herod’s throne. And he wanted the thrones occupied by every king and emperor of Rome and all other dynasties around the world. For the Kingdom of the Son is greater than every other Kingdom. It is a global Kingdom, universal even. All other kings and rulers are pretenders to the throne.
And in order to build his Kingdom, Jesus has begun the work of tearing down all competing kingdoms.
In truth, though, there is only one competing kingdom. It is the domain of darkness, ruled by the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2).
It is a domain marked by suffering. Injustice. Racism. Poverty. War. Famine. Murder. Rape.
Every evil, despicable thing that is done on this planet is done because the ruler of the domain of darkness seduced Eve into rebellion against the True King and, as a result, humanity found itself willing slaves of the devil. Even if we were offered freedom, we would turn our backs on it in order to serve an earthly master. Such is the tyranny of sin and the devil.
So we need a rescuer. A savior. A warrior who would besiege the domain of darkness and rescue us, kicking and screaming, plant faith in our hearts and awaken us to life in a new kingdom, a better kingdom, the Kingdom of the Beloved Son (Col 1:13).
That’s what salvation is. It’s a transfer of Kingdoms, a rescuing/ransoming/saving/delivering. We once followed the course of this world according to the law of the domain of darkness.
Being rich and mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together in Christ, rescuing us from the domain of darkness and transferring us into the Kingdom of His Beloved Son.
This is war. And the cost of our liberation was high. Praise God for a Warrior King who would bear the cross, despising the shame, and pay the ransom of sinners — objects of the wrath of God — with his own blood.
The war isn’t over. We see the evil deeds of that other kingdom all around us. But one day Jesus will come back and he will destroy Satan’s kingdom once and for all. We will rest from the weariness of battle and be ushered into the Kingdom in all its fullness.
One day, we will join Mary in her song;
“He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
He has brought down the mighty from their thrones
And exalted those of humble estate;
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich he has sent away empty.” (Luke 1:50-53)
This is the Jesus that I need this Christmas season. A babe in a manger, yes. A savior from my sins, yes.
But more than that, this year, I need a Divine Warrior King who has set his face like flint against the rulers of darkness and will one day rid the world of suffering and sadness and sickness and sin.
He began all that when he was born more than two thousand years ago.
And that’s what Christmas means to me this year.