“… the Son of God came to destroy these works of the devil.” I John 3:8, TLB
We think of Christmas as a delightful time of great celebration, but we are told in Scripture it also has another side! Yes, Christmas does have a negative dimension as well as a positive one that includes bringing to an end the devil’s foothold—it was the time of the dawning of a new age and bringing to an end the destructive power of Satan.
Let’s remember, even as the wise men “saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (Matthew 2:10), but soon the wise men from eastern lands had encountered evil personified in King Herod, who became deeply disturbed and then furious. It was that reality that Jesus had come to destroy with His coming on this first Christmas.
The angels announced the real reason for Christmas celebration. It was said, “I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone!” (Luke 2:10) But immediately, even as Joseph and Mary were marveling, Simeon announced there was another side to Christmas, “A sword shall pierce your soul, for this child shall be rejected by many …” (verses 34-35)
It does not take much of an effort to review the scandalous record of history. We have repeatedly eclipsed and rejected the true meaning of Christmas and turned it into a self-centered holiday of too much food and too many empty festivities. Even today’s Christmas music is without Christ’s name even being mentioned. So, to many it’s only “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” The prophecy is fulfilled, “this child [the Christ] shall be rejected by many …” In America, at least, the prevailing secular celebration far surpasses the spiritual.
Hebrews 2:14 adds force to the thought of Jesus’ coming to destroy the works of the devil, saying, “… he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Yes, we must say, the purpose of Christmas included a destructive dimension. Few of us have ever thought about how one purpose of Christmas is to destroy. So the message is twofold: Christmas tells us that all that is good for humanity can be discovered in Christ and all that is bad and evil will be eventually destroyed by Christ! Both need to be remembered.
Jesus Christ appeared on earth to bring to an end the devil’s evil works. And yet that only happens when Christmas is clearly understood as being much more than a historical event that created a massive secular holiday of self-centered celebration. That, in truth, is the very opposite of the true spirit of Christmas. Believers admit that openly.
I have on some occasions told, in recent times, of the odd year of Christmas falling on Sunday. This totally uprooted the typical American Christmas morning with presents being opened by the family. As a result, many churches decided to have “the religious Christmas” on Saturday instead, in order not to challenge the deep-rooted cultural event of a typical Christmas morning. Churches by the hundreds canceled church service on Sunday! It was the secular press that took churches to task saying this proves the lack of fervent devotion, of even Christians, to an allegiance to Sunday being sacred! It illustrates how, for many, cultural habits are stronger than Christian devotion, so it does seem that, for many, Christ has not impacted culture. Christ has not changed embedded cultural traditions such as that; it has not even been affected by Him at all!
Did He not come to change us morally, culturally, and personally—to remove those undesirable and unacceptable things in our lives? He came to change that—all of it! Jesus came to destroy all that comes from the devil, which must include our selfishness woven into our attitudes about the very meaning of Christmas. After all, it’s not our birthday we celebrate, it’s His!
How welcoming is the trend today of authentic Christian families that downsize Christmas activities to greater simplicity. Yes, celebration but all of it centered in Him in a time of family devotion. I know several families that collectively give a Christmas gift to Jesus as an act of their Christmas celebration. I can think of nothing we should encourage more than a simplifying and a downsizing of Christmas. Let real Christians do that! So that, it honors Him and proves that in one more family the Son of God has overpowered the secular work of Satan with misguided, typical Christmas frolic. Personally, I love the idea of “Christianizing Christmas.”
At Christmas we must never divorce the fact that when Jesus came, there was darkness as well as light, namely evil present in the midst of a glorious display of the good and glad news that God has come to us. Let’s totally avoid lighthearted celebration at Christmas without realizing that He came to be the Savior because we need one and He came to bring joy because without Him the world lives joylessly. In the Christian festivities we should ask, “And what exactly causes all this to be born into our tradition?” Doubtless, many would be without a meaningful answer to the question, “What exactly are we celebrating?”
We should not for a moment hesitate to emphasize everything positive, good, beautiful, and joyous in all that is Christmas. We repeat, God invaded our world in the person of Jesus Christ. That must be said, continually and convincingly, even though our culture may be totally ignorant of Christmas origins. There can be, after all, no true celebration at Christmas without an explanation of it. This, in turn, leads to a true adoration at Christmas of God sending Christ. At Christmas God came to destroy what was destroying mankind—life without Him, which is the work of the devil. That negative fact produces the greatest positive celebration. Let’s remember that too!
I have been told this story has factual truth to it. In a large mall crowded with hundreds of shoppers loaded down with boxes and making their way through the crowd, two shoppers stopped. They commented with some disgust as a large church choir on risers was singing traditional Christmas carols. One said, “Well, there they go again, the church butting into things! What are they doing there?”
If the story is not factual, it should not be hard to imagine this would be the negative reaction of some secular shoppers during a busy buying time and being frustrated by the crowd around them.
While the Christmas season is one of the busiest times of the year, it is also a season of reflection. It is the greatest of all of history’s wonders. Never must we lose sight of its true meaning. Never allow it to come and go without deep heart adoration for the reason of the season. Let there be in every heart a sense of stupendous celebration as we mark Immanuel’s coming and why He came.
The joyful news is that on that day the Savior was born, who was Christ, the Lord. This is what was heard: “Glory to God in the highest, and on the earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” The NIV says, “… and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Let that be you! Please Him!