Every Christmas season you can count on some variation of a nativity scene to make its annual appearance, pulled out of a storage box in the closet onto someone’s family room tabletop or a life-sized version all aglow welcoming church goers to holiday services.

Looking at “the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay” one might not think about spiritual warfare as an aspect of an “all is calm, all is bright” Christmas. It seems incongruous — that is, until we look at the whole picture. Thirty-three years later, the long-awaited savior, “born of a virgin” (Isaiah 7:14) “in the city of Bethlehem” (Micah 5:2), had fulfilled hundreds of additional Messianic prophesies about his life, death and resurrection, the earliest being found in Genesis 3:15. God tells the serpent, who had just beguiled Adam and Eve into sin, that One is coming Who will “crush your head.” Thus the battle began. The alarm was sounded, echoing around heaven and earth and to all who revel in darkness: My Anointed is coming. Coming to rescue and reconcile, to renew what was lost and broken, and to defeat the enemy of our souls and even death itself. Isaiah’s prophesied Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) is just as much a warrior. (Isaiah 42:13)

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil,” 1 John 3:8 reports. In plain terms then, Christmas celebrates the much anticipated arrival of God’s own Son to ransom the captives, advance His kingdom and take back what the enemy stole away. (Isaiah 61:1-3) That sounds like warfare to me. Revelation 13:8 states the Lamb of God was “slain from the foundation of the world.” Long before Adam even fell, the rescue mission was ready to roll out, “in the fullness of time.” (Galatians 4:4)

So this season, in the midst of all the bright lights and candles, carols and shopping, all the baking and decorating and gift giving, maybe we should remember that from the day of His conception, Jesus was on a seek and save, search and destroy mission on our behalf so that we might declare “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

I wish all my readers the best Spirit-filled Christmas ever. May you recognize that a foreshadowing of the cross was cast upon the manger crib at that first nativity, and that the Christmas Story is fulfilled at Calvary. But it doesn’t end there. For those who believe, the story never ends. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) One of my favorite Christmas carols is Charles Wesley’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” It includes the lyrics “God and sinners reconciled.” That’s the gospel message in a nutshell, the “Good News.” May you find comfort and joy in that realization today. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

*The artwork featured is from a 6th Century mosaic in a chapel in Ravenna, Italy, titled Christ the Warrior.