One morning recently, before even getting out of bed, I was checking the news on social media (not always a positive way to start my day) when I came across a Facebook message proclaiming that I would be dropping “truth bombs” that same night during a women’s Christmas gathering at a local church.
Instantly, I thought to myself: “These are my kind of women! They want truth-bombs? Far be it from me to disappoint.”
Besides, in what is now described as a “post-truth” America, we could use a few truth bombs.
So I dropped several truth bombs that evening. When it was over, the church building was still standing, and there were no casualties—only explosive joy that a Savior was born and a lot of hope because the Kingdom of Jesus has come.
Truth Bomb #1—The first Christmas marked the launch of a covert global rescue operation.
This operation was thousands of years in the making. The first Christmas marked the beginning of God’s final assault in a cosmic battle that signaled the overthrow of the kingdoms of this world. This battle started—not in a war room—but in a garden at the dawn of creation when the enemy attacked and God’s image bearers revolted.
Subsequent history reveals the terrible consequences of human conflict, divisions, abuse, injustice, violence, and war.
But God never gave upon on his vision for us or for the world he loves. So he launched a global rescue effort that reached an historic climax with the birth of Jesus that first Christmas. It literally rocked the heavens. Hordes of angels were deployed. Their actions signaled the turning point in the battle between the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of darkness.
Truth Bomb #2—God’s Christmas rescue of the world depended on the courageous willingness of a young teenage girl and the radically counter-cultural actions of a man.
The terms of Mary’s involvement in Christmas meant consenting to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Within the patriarchal world she inhabited, this decision would shatter her life expectations, her future, and her safety.
Mary was old enough (around 13 or 14) to know what happens to unmarried girls who show up pregnant. Even today, we hear horrifying reports of brutal honor killings of young women for choosing their own husbands, stepping out on their own, or even for being raped. And their executioners are their husbands, fathers, brothers, and uncles who kill to vindicate their male honor.
Remarkably, despite the very real, life-altering risks, Mary answered, “Yes.”
The first big danger she faced was Joseph. They were betrothed and soon to marry. Instead, Mary turns up pregnant, and Joseph doesn’t need a paternity test to prove he isn’t the father.
In first century patriarchal Palestine, the manly thing for Joseph to do was make her pay to vindicate his honor.
But this is where the story takes a remarkable turn.
Joseph’s actions reveal the in-breaking of Jesus’ kingdom in a man’s heart. Even before Joseph learns the truth about Mary, he is determined to shield her from the shame his culture would assume she deserved. When he learns the truth, he throws his full weight behind God’s calling on Mary and plays a decisive role to ensure her success and Jesus’ safety.
That first Christmas is a reminder that when God has important work to do, he often doesn’t choose the big shots. He chooses the unlikely, the marginal, the obscure. And the two of them—Mary and Joseph—give us one of the most powerful examples of the Blessed Alliance in all of scripture.
Truth Bomb #3—Christmas is the proclamation of unparalleled global good news.
Fear and despair sweep over us with news of the collapse of Aleppo, fleeing masses of displaced humanity, another terrorist attack, racism, misogyny, and violence. Global instability, natural disasters, power struggles, and wars, cancer of the body and of the soul are standard fare in the day’s news.
Christmas reminds us that God is determined—at unspeakable cost to himself—to reclaim his image bearers and the world he loves. We are not abandoned. We are loved. We have a Savior, a King. Jesus’ followers become naturalized citizens of a kingdom that is not of this world and that will ultimately prevail.
Jesus came to restore a fallen humanity to our Creator and to reconstruct human relationships according to a gospel ethos. His mission includes but goes well beyond salvation from damnation. God is redeeming and reclaiming his world. He’s putting things right in ways that lead to blessing, goodness, and flourishing for all.
Truth Bomb #4—Christmas has always been under attack.
When it comes to wartime attacks, the truly frightening danger is that those in the crosshairs will be caught off-guard. The first attack on Christmas—paranoid King Herod’s violent slaughter of infant boys in Bethlehem after magi leaked the news of a rival king’s birth—was anything but subtle. That threat blew the royal family’s cover and forced them into wartime refugee status in Egypt for years.
Today, some American evangelicals have identified an assault on Christmas and expressed a disturbing sense of loss when a store clerk or merchandising banner wishes them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” This embarrassing obsession with trivia lets our guard down and distracts us from a far greater danger.
The greatest threat to 21st Century Christmas is not that Christians are losing the right to control the public religious narrative. It is instead that we Christians ourselves have lost sight of the very essence of Christmas—the costly, life-transforming nature of the divine rescue operation launched undercover against lethal dark forces in the form of a tiny baby born in obscurity.
Christmas is the antidote to everything that plagues the human race and all that is wrong in God’s world. It is an operation of the most pressing urgency. Sinister forces of darkness fiercely opposed it. This threat is real and has thrown the American church off-mission and into a self-absorbed complacency and quest for dominance and control instead of loving others into following the true King who alone can satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.
Truth Bomb #5—Christmas reminds us that we are not spectators to what God is doing.
We have work to do! God’s image bearers remain his preferred method of getting things done in the world. We are agents of the rescue operation the Creator launched that first Christmas. We are called to love this world and the people in it as he loves. Christmas reminds us to embrace our King and his Kingdom, to become part of heaven’s victory over sin and death and evil, to bear and to be good news to a lost and broken world.
So . . . no matter what confronts us when we check the morning news, let the enemy and his minions tremble when our feet hit the floor. Let Christmas re-energize us for the mission Jesus entrusts to us. Let the Good News of Jesus’ gospel empower us to live courageously as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven!