This is my annual re-post of what I have titled, The Battle Cry of Bethlehem. It seems particularly appropriate in this year of tragedy (2012) for so many families in Oregon and Connecticut. May we not be discouraged and complacent, but take up the weapons of the Spirit and join in the battle cry of the Prince of Peace.
It is Christmas. The strains of Silent Night, Holy Night are heard once again. They mingle with the gentle melodies of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, and The First Noel. The songs of the season are a lullaby, the very image of peace. Really? Was the coming of the Christ child an olive branch to the world, or was He the tip of the spear?
Over the past few years I’ve been inclined to see the nativity in context. Consider for a moment Genesis 3. It is the familiar story of the fall of the human race. God’s beloved creation, the man and the woman, acted foolishly. They chose to submit themselves to a lesser being, a character that has come to be called, “the serpent,” after its accursed form. Remember God’s threat upon this deceitful rebel:
From now on, you and the woman will be enemies, and your offspring and her seed will be enemies. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel (3:15).
God’s words portend something of critical importance. What is this pronouncement if not a declaration of war, a promise of retaliation? God declares the human race and the angelic rebellion to be locked in conflict. Furthermore, notice the singular pronoun, “He.” There is a single person who will rise up to deliver the lethal blow to the serpent. A human being will be born to be the champion and lead the human race to victory. The scene of that ultimate victory is in Revelation 19:11-16 (point to the reference to read). The offspring of the human race, “The Seed” of Genesis 3, leads the charge.
And between these two events, the declaration of war in Genesis and the final battle in Revelation, is the coming of “The Seed” — the birth of the one who is destined to “crush” the head of the enemy of creation. Born is the Champion. Born is the Leader of the final angelic charge. Born is the King. He is the tip of the spear hurled at the heart of the rebellion; destined to bring peace on earth and good will toward men.
In context, the event in Bethlehem is not the quiet night we often imagine; it is the long promised escalation of hostilities in the spiritual battle between good and evil. And what of the shepherds out watching their flocks by night? What did they see in the surrounding fields? Was this a celestial concert; the mother of all singing Christmas trees? Read a paraphrase:
And a messenger of the Creator appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. This supernatural being said, “Don’t be afraid. Instead, rejoice. This is good news I bring, not just to you but to your race. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Liberator, who is to be called Christ the Lord. . . And suddenly, there was with the angel an army of heaven praising God and shouting, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:9-14).
This was no Holy Land flash-mob. This was the gathering of an invading army. A defensive perimeter. Troops massing for war. The cry from the manger, fragile as it might sound, was the warison, the call to battle. There was no peaceful melody in the fields that night, but a terrifying roar of soldiers beating their swords against their shields, challenging the armies of darkness: “Glory to God in the highest! Glory to God in the highest! GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST!”
This was the battle cry of Bethlehem.
~~~~~All around us, the war in the spiritual world spills out into our world. Sickness, death, poverty, hunger, greed, violence and all manner of evil are the evidence. Jesus, our Master and Commander, invites us to be a part of the battle and challenge these things. The adventure begins in much the same way as it did so long ago in Bethlehem. It begins with a birth: yours. It begins with becoming a new creature, born for eternity and equipped to challenge the darkness in the world as Jesus did. The revolution continues. Join us. PS- in our book, Sword of Submission, is an exploration of this idea. Also, here is an audio version of this teaching.