Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Swords

In the room next to me are sleeping two little boys very excited to see what the morning will bring. Their gift list is rather simple: new swords, ninja gear, and army stuff (and I happen to know they will not be disappointed). Like many little boys they have a constant desire to avenge the world of all evil, knowing their trusty weapons will rid the world of "bad guys." In some ways it seems incongruous that at a time of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” a child would be focused on tools of violence. Surely swords and Christmas don’t go together…do they?

For several years it has been my personal Christmas tradition to re-read Cosmic Christmas by Max Lucado. The extra-biblical account is given from the perspective of the angel Gabrielle. I like this little book because it shatters the “all is calm, all is bright/silent night” conception I tend to build around the Christmas story. While I understand the story is fiction, following the journey of Gabrielle from his assignment to bring the good news to a young virgin to leading the angel choir in songs of glory and worship, it gives me a fresh perspective. Gabrielle’s assignment is not an easy one. The book gets its title from a cosmic battle that takes place between the angels and the demons who are seeking to prevent the birth of the Christ-child. It takes the complete book for Gabrielle to realize the entirety of the gift God is giving to man and why Satan is willing to go to such lengths to stop it.

Lucado stops his story-telling at the birth of Christ but another author told us what happened next. In the book of Matthew we are given Herod reaction to the birth of the new King. Herod’s pride and lust for power couldn’t allow him to tolerate the thought of anyone who might one day usurp his throne, so when the Magi came seeking the Christ he immediately began planning to destroy the Child. God’s providence protected Joseph, Mary, and Jesus but the remaining children of Bethlehem fell victim to Herod’s army.

In the gospel of Luke, we are told of the trip to the temple for the purification sacrifice following the birth. While there Mary is given a strange blessing by Simeon. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” In this time of greatest joy there was always the reminder that Christ’s coming was not only going to bring gladness but that there would also be pain and suffering.

Christmas is a time of great joy and gladness and celebration. A time of spending time with family and friends, laughing and loving, giving and receiving. But in the midst of that we need to be constantly reminding ourselves that the point of Christmas is not to focus on an infant, but on a Savior. A Savior whose death and resurrection is the ultimate triumph over all evil.  

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