Wednesday, December 11, 2013

God on the Offensive

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).

Though their numbers are shrinking, there are still plenty of people around who remember December 7, 1941.

This past weekend marked 72 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor. The phrase “a day that will live in infamy” is widely known even by those who have no memory of the infamous day. The infamy does indeed remain, rooted in the stunning act of aggression aimed at our nation. Over the weekend we remembered those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor. Moreover, we remembered how that day, that act, changed our history as a people.

The opening chapters of the Bible tell us about an act of aggression. The biblical story begins with a good God and a good creation. We don’t get very far before an enemy appears to drive a wedge between humankind and the creator who provides all things for their good. Manipulative and cunning, this enemy attacks what God has done, changing the course of human history. The rest of the Bible is the story of God’s restoration project. God has long been at work to mend what the devil wrecked.

At this time of year we are often encouraged to remember the “Reason for the Season.” What we rarely hear is the very specific reason stated in 1 John 3:8. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”

Most of what we see and hear in this season belies that truth. The sights are idyllic: Starlight spilling from a cloudless winter sky, snow fall that never seems to cause traffic problems or power outages. All of this is enhanced with the display of lights.

The vocabulary of love and blessing shapes our language. We speak of God’s love for the world and how we share that love by loving our neighbor. Words like ‘peace’ and ‘joy’ give expression to our deepest Christmas wishes.

All of this is wonderful and I’d be the last person to dismiss any of it. But let’s not forget the combative edge that Christmas represents. The scriptures are clear that we have an enemy who actively seeks to diminish or destroy our faith. Jesus said that this enemy is a liar who will stop at nothing to ruin what is good and beautiful in this life (see John 10:10).

If you want to know the reason for the season, take a moment and look closely and what most of us try to ignore at Christmas. The devil’s work is seen in broken homes, addictions, violence in streets and schools, abuse behind the closed doors in our own neighborhoods, estrangement between races and nations. All of this is why Jesus came. He came to destroy the devil’s work.

Christmas is an act of aggression. It is God on the offensive. Jesus came to destroy the devil’s works, and this is why we must never separate the manger from the cross.

Where are you most aware of the ‘devil’s works?’ Is there anything you can do this Christmas to undo what the enemy is doing?

“Come thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in thee; Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.” Amen (Charles Wesley, 1744)

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