We’ve heard it countless times: the laudable advice to put first things first and remember “the reason for the season.” Christmas (from Crīstesmæsse, or “Christ’s mass”), after all, is first and last a celebration and remembrance of one of the two most important moments in history: the arrival of YHWH on our planet as a man (the incarnation) in order to reset the Genesis Project and make all things new. (The second one, of course, was the resurrection when Jesus became the first fruits of the New Creation and launched the final stage of the Project.)
But for many people, remembering to “put Christ back into Christmas” translates into little more than nativity scenes with the baby Jesus and his adoring parents, lowing lambs, humble shepherds, singing angels and the three magi bearing gifts (the latter an anachronism; these Gentile visitors didn’t show up until after, likely well after, Jesus’ presentation at the temple and after he had been moved to a house.) But in reality the atmosphere surrounding the first Advent was heavy with shadows cast by Satan and the Fall as Jesus’ birth signaled the first phase in the ultimate confrontation between good and evil, light and darkness. (Here the reader would benefit by reading my previous post, Creche, Cross and Crown). We can’t fully appreciate the miracle of the Advent without also meditating on the dark clouds roiling about the Christ-child.
Consider: 1. An awkward pre-nuptial pregnancy that surely had rumors flying and Joseph wondering what in the world he had gotten himself into. 2. The ulitimate “on our way to the hospital” delivery, except there was no hospital and no cab-driver or EMT to assist – just a barn with the stench of manure dust in the air and an awkward young man with zero experience in midwivery trying to coax a child that wasn’t his out of his betrothed’s naked body. 3. Angels anouncing His birth with happy cries of “Glory to God in the highest!” and “Peace on earth!”before adding the rather ominous qualification of “with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14) Apparently there will be some with whom He will not be pleased and for whom there will be no peace. Sides are already being drawn and the sword of judgment unsheathed. 4. Ditto Simeon’s prophecy eight days later when Jesus is presented per custom at the temple for dedication to God and to be circumcised, a bloody ritual that for Jesus was shot through with all manner of prophetic import. ““Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34,35) Many were going to fall, He was going to be opposed and a sword was “also” going to pierce His heart. No “visions of sugar plums” that. 5. The minor beast 666 Herod would hear of the birth of this King and be inspired by Satan to send his troops to Bethlehem to kill every male baby under the age of two in Bethlehem “and its environs.” (Matt. 2:16-18) Jesus has hardly begun the time of His sojourning as a homo sapien and the body-count was already beginning to pile-up.