By Brian Riddle
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:6-11 (ESV)
Have we missed the epic narrative that culminates in Christmas? Have we considered that God actually took on human form to defeat Satan, sin and death in this world? Most importantly, perhaps, have we missed the fact that Christmas means victory for Christ and those unified to him in faith? In this final week of Advent my desire is that we can dwell on the birth of Christ in a special way. I pray for Redeemer Church that our hearts would be stirred to worship our King more purely and passionately than we ever have. These questions have been important to me as I consider Christ this Christmas and I hope they’ll mean something to you as well.
I pose these questions because lately I’ve had my attention drawn to the fact that we are all apart of God’s narrative in history. I’ve been reminded that any good story I’ve ever read or listened to borrowed from the story of God’s redemptive plan to save his people. Stories, like paintings, rely on contrast. The bright, colorful spots on a painting attract your eye first because the dark areas and shadows provide a tense surrounding. In this, the dark actually serves the light. The tension in art, and thus the tension in life, God’s art is absolutely necessary. So it is in every good story. C.S. Lewis was in tune with the dark/light battle that encompasses our world and any good fantasy world. Why did C.S. Lewis or God for that matter even include darkness in their story? Why not write a narrative where only good exists and the Red Sox win the World Series every year (a sure characteristic of the New Heavens and New Earth)?
N.D. Wilson proposes in his book, Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl (I will link to this book at the bottom, you should buy it), that evil exists, darkness exists, so that it may be defeated. I believe God likely has a myriad of reasons and purposes for evil in his story. But one aspect of God that we miss out on, one totally rad blessing we don’t receive if darkness doesn’t exist, is this characteristic of Jesus as the victorious Savior and Redeemer. Without evil, Jesus has nothing to defeat and thus lacks proper glorification as Messiah. Without the Yankees, that dark, evil baseball organization, the Red Sox would not have gloried in that magical 2004 ALCS and then the subsequent 86 year curse breaking championship a few days later!
So in this sense, Christmas is victory. Philippians 2:6-11 is a great example of darkness serving the light, where Christ must endure evil and suffering so that it may be defeated at the cross. The first half of this passage says that God came in human form and emptied himself of all reputation, became a servant, and that he exercised humility towards his persecutors up until the point that they drove nails through his flesh pinning him to planks of wood. It doesn’t get much darker than this. But by the time Jesus is hung on the cross he has already secured victory because God’s entire plan revolves around being amongst his people. This was the purpose for the tabernacles and temples in the Old Testament.
On the very first Christmas, the true Temple came. He was called Immanuel, which means “God with us”. And even though he would endure a lowly life of hardship and mockery, Jesus knew that the darkness was serving the light and that evil would in fact be defeated. Note the second half of the passage beginning in verse 9; God, because of the darkness Jesus bore for us, exalted him. Paul assures the Christians in Philippi that every knee would bow and every tongue would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Its the “dark” first half of the passage, verses 5-8, that provide the tension and contrast to the glory that God would bring by defeating evil.
This Christmas, consider the darkness you see in your life, in your community, in this world. Be assured that our sovereign God is in control and the darkness is serving His purposes. Consider your part in the narrative. What character will you play? I pray that our family here at Redeemer be encouraged by the Christmas victory. Let your “character” be bold enough to live as selflessly as Christ did. Be peacemakers. Jesus defeated darkness with light, evil with good. As “co-heirs” with Jesus, this kingdom he brought is ours to rule and expand.
Do not be paralyzed or defeated by the dark and scary world we live in. Be conquerors assured of the victory that’s already been won. Meet aggression with peace, darkness with light, frustration with tranquility. This is our world, Christian. Christmas guaranteed it. Hail Jesus.
2. Paintings by Makoto Fujimura