I’m really really, really looking forward to Advent this year. Time for THE good news, the thing Christians apparently forgot while wringing their hands about all the bad stuff going on in the world. Remember, Jesus was born into occupied territory. We should not be worried. So Christmas this year puts everything in context.
I’m starting to appreciate the closing words of the Lord’s Prayer… “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. Now that would be nice to see, but is frankly unlikely unless everything else goes KABOOM first. Evil will have to be destroyed by some righteous authority. There is no longer any neutral ground.
The first Christmas was already a battleground if you consider Herod’ slaughter of the innocents. There was a war going on over who would be king. Herod simply confirmed how evil tends to double down when confronted, and why it must be totally defeated in return. That’s why baby Jesus meek and mild can be confusing. I can see why the Jews wanted a Messiah with a can of whoop-ass. I feel the same way when I read the news and see all the corrupt and stupid things going on.
God’s promise to wrest the world from the grip of evil suddenly got legs when Jesus arrived. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined... For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father...”
After two and a half years of lockdown, we are going to attend Handel’s Messiah on the first Sunday of Advent. It’s a great way to usher in Christmas and I’m looking forward to it this year more than any other. I’m ready for the good news to take hold of me and permeate my being. Sitting through three hours of Messiah is strong medicine. The performance assails you with the timeline of sacred scripture start to finish, that foretell the Messiah. Jesus the Messiah is what Christmas is about. I think I should be on my feet or doing a crowd surf some time around the Hallelujah Chorus.
What does Messiah mean? Well, you can forget the mild stuff. It ultimately means KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. It’s triumphalism in a good way, because it triumphs the GOOD. King of kings and Lord of Lords is what Jesus will be crowned at the end of human history. As for the Hallelujah chorus, hallelujah is the one word in the world lexicon that translates across the board as PRAISE GOD and it will be on everyone’s lips when Jesus does his victory tour.
You can celebrate a bit of power here. It’s justified if you do not want to buy into the sappy version of Christmas. Colossians 2:8 - “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”
People forget that Jesus came to conquer evil - not only general evil, but specific and personified evil. Flannery O’Connor pointed out that “Our salvation is played out with the Devil, a devil who is not merely generalized evil, but an evil intelligence determined on its own supremacy.” It’s why the Bible verses here and there, shows us what victory over that particular brand of evil looks like. Colossians 2:15 - “When he disarmed the rulers and authorities, he exposed them to public disgrace by leading them in a triumphal parade.”
I may be without words this Christmas season, but I hope I retain “Hallelujah” in my personal lexicon, because Christmas comes as the strong medicine the world needs. The first chapter of Luke chapter 1, verse 77 tells us: “Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death....”
That would be battleground earth, still struggling under the curse of sin and death. And that’s where Christmas comes, with a club, and beats the hell out of the Devil. This Christmas, I’m feeling a little stroppy, Hallelujah.