By Joseph Ostrander
It’s not about The War on Christmas…It’s all about the Ultimate War that was Declared on Christmas Day two-thousand years ago…
Be it Egg-Fog (shot of Bourbon added to my traditional Egg Nog), holiday cookies of every kind, the lighting of Christmas trees, or the expectant opening of calendar windows to extract the chocolate goodies inside, Advent is both the month of anticipation before the approaching Christmas holiday and the beginning of the western liturgical year. What’s that you say? What does the adjective: \lə-ˈtər-ji-kəl\ (looks Greek to me!) really mean anyway? The season of Advent is largely forgotten, and mostly misunderstood, if the Church’s Liturgical Calendar was not part of your early religious faith tradition and upbringing.
Most adherents of the Christian faith acknowledge Christmas and Easter as being the Alpha and Omega end-posts of the liturgical year, which includes a wide variety of feasts, fasts, and seasons. And strange as it may seem, the specific dates for Christmas and Easter vary among the different faith traditions. In the Western tradition (in contrast to Eastern Orthodox tradition), Advent begins four Sundays prior to Christmas (December 25th). It includes all days until Christmas (or Christmas Eve); it varies in length according to date of the first Sunday, and it’s considered the beginning of the Church year.
Advent’s themes include: Waiting; Growing Anticipation; Hope; Yearning; and the need for a Savior. Christians can identify with the Jewish people’s longing for the “advent” (from Latin for “coming” or “visit”) of their Messiah. It also relates to our hope for the Messiah’s Second Advent, which is known as the “Parousia” (just a fancy Greek term for The Second Coming).
St. Anslem of Canterbury wrote a book back in the 12th century called, Cur Deus Homo? (Latin for: Why was God a man?). Its theme revolved around the incredibly deep theological implications of why God become a man in the person of Jesus (The Incarnation). Although Anselm’s attempt was to propose a satisfaction view of the atonement, it seems other learned theologians throughout church history have also wrestled with this divine repercussion. Why the Incarnation? Hmmm…
Yet it was the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) that made this central theme quite clear from the beginning: when the God of Israel returns to His Temple, He will strike a massive victory against all the forces of evil:
God looked and saw evil looming on the horizon—
so much evil and no sign of Justice.
He couldn’t believe what he saw:
not a soul around to correct this awful situation.
So he did it himself, took on the work of Salvation,
fueled by his own Righteousness.
He dressed in Righteousness, put it on like a suit of armor,
with Salvation on his head like a helmet,
Put on Judgment like an overcoat,
and threw a cloak of Passion across his shoulders.
He’ll make everyone pay for what they’ve done:
fury for his foes, just deserts for his enemies.
Even the far-off islands will get paid off in full.
In the west they’ll fear the name of God,
in the east they’ll fear the glory of God,
For he’ll arrive like a river in flood stage,
whipped to a torrent by the wind of God.
“I’ll arrive in Zion as Redeemer,
to those in Jacob who leave their sins.” God’s Decree. ~Isaiah 59:17-21 – The Message Bible
In keeping with this theme the early church also recognized how The Incarnation partially addressed this very same purpose: Jesus, in part, came to wage battle against the forces of evil and the evil one; evil forces that held creation in bondage, and to whom misguided human participants act as henchmen, “that know not what they do.” And it was by His cross and resurrection that they were defeated (and continue to be in retreat)…
“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. ~Colossians 2:15
To the readers of Paul’s letter, the imagery of a triumphal Roman procession celebrating a military victory would be vividly understood.
So, what exactly happened in that sleepy, “little town of Bethlehem”???
Luke, in his gospel, describes it as The Royal Birth of The Great King of the Universe, which surpasses all the pomp, power and prestige of every worldly kingdom ever known, including the mighty Roman Empire that was then in power as an oppressive occupational force…
Mary, in her Magnificat proclaims, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble.” Just what was Luke implying? The birth of Jesus takes place in the shadow of Caesar Augustus’ census, but Jesus’ birth is consistently described in royal terms. And the birth of the Davidic King is greeted by a “heavenly host” of angels, a veritable supernatural army of the highest order!
Why the militaristic trappings and jingoism in both the Hebrew understanding of the Messiah, and those of the New Testament writers? Do you feel there is a war being waged on Christmas? C’mon folks, it’s just a plain red Starbucks cup, okay? Minimalist design. Distinctive color. And that’s somehow offensive to the self-appointed Christian War Council and their rank-and-file media precinct Christian Proprietary Police???
Well God bless Dunkin’ Donuts for putting the JOY back into Joyeux Noël on their holiday coffee cups! Whew! Take that pagan Starbucks! Guess you can chock one up for the godly, eh?
No, Virginia, there is no war on Christmas. However, there is a spiritual war that began on Christmas Day (C-Day) and is being waged even now. Because that’s what Christmas was: a bold declaration of war. A divinely sanctioned campaign against all the thrones, dominions, principalities and powers that continue to hold God’s good creation in their evil grasp…
But with all this militaristic imagery that heralded the arrival of a helpless baby boy born in a manger two-thousand years ago, how are we expected to fight in this war?
Well, it’s not by fuming at retail greeters offering you “Happy Holidays!” at the check-out counter. It’s not even a war against consumerism, although skirmishes resisting the urge-to-splurge can be appropriate this time of year. Nope, I believe this war should be fought in the same way Jesus fought His…
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. ~1John 3:8b
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ~John: 10:10
Our King did not appear with a helmet on His head and sword in hand. He was not adorned with camo fatigues or combat boots. He did not acquire a conquering King’s crown of gold, but was given a crown of thorns instead. He was born in a manger–offering Himself to those that hunger and thirst for righteousness as divine food—“living bread that came down from heaven.” This babe of the Nativity, the firstborn of Mary and Joseph, born into a blue-collar family in some podunk town out on the fringes of a vast Roman Empire, is by definition, the most Benevolent Dictator of a grand and glorious kingdom. He is the Mighty One of Israel, Immanuel, Yeshua; the long hoped-for Messiah. He is the Savior of the world; the King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus confronted every manner of evil causing every manner of harm to the captives He came to set free:
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” ~Luke 4:16-21
Let us also fix our eyes upon this selfsame Jesus during this Advent Season…
Think about it…