On June 6, 1944, Allied Forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, France. After months of planning and strategic activity designed to mislead the German command, soldiers from around the world began a siege with the goal of liberating France and Western Europe from Nazi control.
Under the light of a full moon, thousands of troops, primarily from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada, crossed the English Channel, hoping to get a foothold that would enable them to overcome the German forces.
Over days and months, the Allied Forces overcame their Nazi counterparts. They slowly gained ground, cutting off reinforcements through arial attacks. The battle was one of great sacrifice, with thousands of soldiers losing their lives in the effort and many others badly wounded. But because of the planning and execution and the bravery of the men who fought at Normandy, the stage was set for the ultimate victory and liberation of Western Europe.
Away in a Manger
Most people do not associate stories of war with the imagery of Christmas. Instead, when we think of the birth of Jesus, we tend to picture pastoral scenes. Mary and Joseph in the stable with the animals around them. The shepherds and wise men coming to visit and pay homage. We celebrate these scenes each year in Christmas pageants. My kids have participated in such pageants and they are very cute.
It feels very intimate and warm, and perhaps that is how it was, at least at the start.
John Eldredge introduced me to a different perspective on Christmas through his book, Wild at Heart. In it he describes the birth of Jesus as:
“the Great Invasion, a daring raid by the ruler of the forces of Good into the universe’s seat of evil. Spiritually speaking, this is no silent night. It is D-Day.”
If I am honest, the first time I read this, a part of me that thought, ‘Come on, not everything needs to be so dramatic. The Nativity as a war story? Seems like a bit much.’
But Christmas is the turning point in the Great Story. The Son of God enters the scene at night, under the light of a great star. Perceived as a threat to King Herod, the infant Son must be rushed away into exile to avoid death. Right from the start, there was danger and action. Jesus’ life is preserved meaning that His mission remains on course.
Through great effort, Jesus wins back lost souls and sets free the captives. He heals the sick, raises the dead, and forgives sins. The battle is not without its sacrifice. Jesus gives his life for those that He came to save. In doing so, He sets the stage for the ultimate victory – victory over death on Easter Sunday.
Viewed in the wider context of the Great Story, Christmas is a far more dangerous and thrilling event than the Christmas carols describe.
With this perspective in mind, what does it mean for me as I prepare for Christmas this year?
First, Christmas can no longer be viewed as an isolated event. It is not just the commemoration Jesus’ birth. It is an act of rebellion, a grand step forward by God in the epic story of Time. Christmas is the pivotal moment in which the tide shifts and the victory is ensured.
Each of us has a role to play in the Story. Each of us was placed here, now, for a purpose. The Story did not end at Easter, and Jesus left his disciples with a mission, one which is carried forward to today. To make disciples of all nations. The battle for souls continues.
When I see my life in the context of the larger Story, my actions take on greater meaning. It is easy to point out how small we are in comparison to all human history. But our actions have impact. Even if our names are forgotten by future generations, our influence can have reach beyond that which what we are aware of.
Who could have predicted that the birth of a baby in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago would drastically change the course of human history? Seeing our lives as part of a greater story, a great adventure, adds significance to our presence on the earth. This carries weight, but also great wonder and expectation.
Secondly, viewing Christmas as a pivotal moment in a great battle brings me hope. This post will be published on December 21, 2021. This happens to be the darkest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere, where I live. There is rich symbolism in the Light of the World entering just after the darkest day.
Christmas has always carried with it the themes of hope and joy. In my experience, these feelings eventually wane as the calendar year changes and we find ourselves back in our regular routines. It does not seem to take long for Christmas to fade away in the rear-view mirror.
But when I look at Christmas not as an annual event, but as the moment that God stepped into the fray – the moment He entered into our experience in order to save us – it gives me great hope in the Story and my own place in it. Christmas is the moment in which the path to victory was established, and that path continues today. The moment is a reminder that no matter what is happening, we should always have hope in the Great Story and our place in it.
Road to Victory
Throughout history there have been many periods in which darkness has been rampant. The people of Israel before Jesus’ birth were desperate for a messiah to overthrow Roman rule. In June of 1944, the prospects of the Allied forces taking the beaches at Normandy looked like a long proposition.
Each of us has and will experience moments of darkness; moments when hope is lacking. As Christmas approaches this year, I encourage you to have hope. It can be the harder choice, but being hopeful and seeking joy, especially amidst chaos and darkness is an act of defiance in itself. Hope liberates us when fear and uncertainty try to hold us captive.
Christmas is far more than a warm painting of a baby in a manger. It is the moment in which hope, permanent hope, enters the world. That hope remains today, as present as it was at the first Christmas.
Having hope means seeing beyond our current circumstances, even while navigating them, knowing that the victory is already won.
I wish you and all your loved ones a Merry Christmas.
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