This is a repost from 2006. I believe I’ve shared it two or three times in total, but I’m getting new readers all the time and I feel it’s important we suss out the meta-story of Advent. This is my attempt.
In the fourteenth century King Edward III of England encroached upon France and took the throne he claimed he had a right to, and took back the territory lost to his realm. The year was 1337 and thus began the “100 Year War”…
On a far grander scale, the Advent of Christ has done essentially the same thing.
If the incarnation tells us anything, it says that we have a Universal King – the rightful King – who has come to earth to destroy the works and dominion of the devil, and to place His rule in the hearts of all who will submit to His reign. His coming and subsequent victory at the Cross and Tomb put an end to the four thousand year war that had been waged way back in the Garden of Genesis.
But we’ve emasculated the Christmas Story! We’ve come to think of it solely in terms of cattle gently lowing, donkeys braying contentedly, sheep dozing peacefully beside a halo-shrouded crib, shepherds hushed and admiring, a sleepy little village, twinkling lights, sugarplums and gingerbread houses—a veritable homespun, down-home, Smoky Mountain snow globe scene!
Don’t think me heartless. I love the Frank Capra, Walton Mountain, Bing Crosby and Frosty side of Christmas as much as the next guy and possibly more, but that stuff is best kept separated from what Advent represents. Let’s not hear the Christmas Story and think of it in trite sayings like “God come to earth” or a Child born in Bethlehem or a Baby lying in a manger, as if that were all there was to it.
Think of it as an invasion.
An INCARNATION, yes, but also an INVASION most certainly! Heaven’s Darling has come to an earth that lies in the power of the evil one and has been accompanied by a host of the angelic army; He has come behind enemy lines to take His rightful place in hearts and to free those enslaved in darkness.
Can you imagine the devilish glee at the incarnation? Can you just hear the deep-throated mirth of the wicked one as he looks upon an outcast Baby born to humble parentage, laid in straw and draped in rags, as he says with side-splitting laughter toward the heavens, “Is that the best You can do?” He must have thought smugly to himself, “This is going to be even easier than I thought!”
But the scene in that feeding-trough is not one of dismay, embarrasment or backing down to the challenge. The scene in Bethlehem may as well have been a meeting of the Top Brass, the Joint Chiefs, in the Situation Room plotting strategy for the sure destruction of the enemy once and for all. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all present with the mighty hosts of Heaven—an angelic army of superheroes mustering overhead—but the latter are only for show. In fact, they come to sing, not make war! The devil will be felled by a Baby!
As the camera pans on the Divine Visitation we find a curious development. Amid the circle of the Godhead are a handful of humble patrons. They are each witnesses of the Glory because the Lord has found an “amen” in their hearts. People like Joseph. And Mary. The unlikely shepherd-evangelists. These are the special forces God has inserted into enemy territory, and any day now, the supply caravan will be arriving with more than enough to commence the aggression.
“Sweet Little Jesus Boy”??? Hardly. That sentiment does no justice to the Advent of the Christ-King. To the enemy there was nothing sweet about it. It was nothing short of the Godhead taking off their gloves and slapping the devil on his cheek, challenging him to a duel to the death!
1 John 3:8 says—
“The Son of God appeared for this purpose: to destroy the works of the devil.”
John Piper spoke to this truth:
The only people who understand Christmas and embrace Christmas for what it is are people who feel sick and who desperately want their sickness destroyed. Unless you welcome Jesus as a Destroyer in your life, you can’t have Him as a Savior. Christmas is God’s invasion of enemy territory to rescue a people from the devil and destroy the sin in their lives.”
We cannot have Him as Savior all the while rejecting Him as Lord and Conqueror. The angels’ announcement to those gritty shepherds abiding in the fields watching over the flocks earmarked for Passover sacrifice was redolent of announcing a King’s Visitation. A King unlike any other:
“This day, in the City of David, a Savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord.”
That’s the only time in the New Testament this title is used exactly this way. For Jews, to pronounce The Name (“YHWH”) was against their Law, so when public reading of the Jewish Scriptures took place, whenever the speaker came to the sacred name of God, he would substitute another word, Adonai, and continue on. The word found here in the Greek is ‘kurios’ which is the same as the Hebrew ‘adonai’. Do you see what the angels were declaring? They were giving this Baby the title, “Messiah-Yaweh”! This was not just an important person or another King, but the King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
When Christ came to earth, He brought His Kingdom with Him, then made Himself the Ransom by which to purchase it. He is the nobleman of Luke 19:12 who goes off to a far country to procure a Kingdom for Himself and tells His servants to “occupy ’til I come.”
After an invasion comes an occupation! When the shepherds were given the “rhema” of the Incarnation (translated “thing” in Luke 2:15), they went everywhere telling the news, spreading the occupation. After the Magi saw Him, they returned to Arabia and Persia, extending the occupation. Mary and Joseph brought God’s Treasure to Jerusalem eight days later to be presented in the Temple as their Firstborn and touched off the beginnings of a Divine occupation in the capital city.
Fast forward just a bit and follow the Advent family as they travel to Egypt flexing the borders of Christ’s realm even further. When they returned to their homeland, ‘rhema’ put them in Nazareth, so the ripples of His reign continued to expand. Thereafter, the chosen couple took the Christ Child to Jerusalem every year for the High Feast Day which gives the vivid illustration of the penetration of the Kingdom, much like the ramming of a door until it falls off its hinges.
A chapter later (Luke 3), Yeshua’s cousin John is seen in this otherworldly occupation as he preaches out in the wilderness to crowds of settlers, soldiers and tax collectors, setting forth the terms of occupation: repentance and faith. Thus the realm is spreading everywhere, in every hamlet, the subject of every dinner conversation, in the palace of Herod, the Roman armories and among the teeming throngs in the commercial districts…
ALL THIS WAS DONE BEHIND ENEMY LINES. Right under the devil’s nose. In his very own backyard. And there was nothing he could do to stop it!
At Golgotha, the Man Jesus walked right into the devil’s living room, through the front door (the gates of hell), overpowered the strongman, and took his booty—those bound in darkness—and led them out of their imprisonment (see Matthew 12:29-ff).
Luke’s narrative of Advent begins with the most powerful man on earth – Caesar – and ends with a humble couple spending the night in a barn, not to mention vile, ignorant, earthy shepherds looking on in wonderment as witnesses of the Divine Visitation. Men whose character was so suspect they would not have been allowed to testify in court, yet God chose them as His witnesses!
What are the odds this thing could ever by pulled off? I’d say pretty good, considering it was a Baby who was the enemy’s undoing! A baby, by the way, who launched His invasion by toddling right into the enemy’s camp.
“Glory to God in the highest! And on earth, peace among (Greek, “in”) men with whom God is pleased.”
Peace to you in Christ!