Advent as Warfare

Day 1 of Joy the World: Daily Reading for Advent from Charles Spurgeon speaks of the “first act of grace” after Man’s first act of rebellion. God speaks both words of judgment (assuring the serpent his doom is sure) and words of mercy (letting Adam and Eve know they’ll not be put to death immediately and that not all is hope is lot). God’s persistent mercy and gracious promises swiftly show up. Though Adam and Eve rebelled and lead humanity into darkness, a second Adam and son of Eve will one day come to bring about our restoration and freedom.

God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his hell.”

Commenting on Genesis 3:15 and that earliest of promises that Eve’s seed would one day crush the serpent under his foot, even at great cost to himself, C. H. Spurgeon writes:

“There was enmity between Christ and Satan, for he came to destroy the works of the devil and to deliver those who are under bondage to him. For that purpose was he born; for that purpose did he live; for that purpose did he die; for that purpose he has gone into the glory, and for that purpose he will come again–that everywhere he may find out his adversary and utterly destroy him and his works from amongst the sons of men. This putting of the enmity between the two seeds was the commencement of the plan of mercy, the first act in the program of grace.”

That quote sparked for me a different vantage of Advent, seeing it not just through the lens of the warm fuzzies of a baby born in a manger, or even the selfless sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for sin, but the goosebumps that come with the hope-giving news that God made a definitive move that will soon end all our warfare. The Light entering the Darkness is not just the shining of a candle suggesting hope and help but also the blast of a rocket signaling to all of us behind enemy lines that our rescuer is here to conquer, deliver, and bring freedom. 

Similar to how American soldiers and European citizens might have felt after the news of D-Day and the Allies advancing from Britain into Normandy (signaling a new day and a change in the tide of the war), the good news of the Son of God also becoming the Son of Man and crossing the great of divide of Heaven and Earth to land in Bethlehem, this is indeed news that offers a thrill of hope a weary world can rejoice in. A new and glorious morning has dawned because the king is on the move, quietly and unexpectedly and yet with a clear mission and path.

We/I often think primarily of Jesus’ Incarnation personally (for me) or generally (a kind gift) but rarely see Christ’s coming as warfare. The Father sends the Son into the dark, ravaged, enemy-occupied territory–where His people are enslaved, in bondage, and oppressed–so that He can defeat the Enemy, set His people free, reclaim the kingdom, and begin the process of setting to right all that has been made wrong. Christ’s birth is the strategic assault that begins the end of the warfare and will bring on the defeat of his enemy and our captor.

It’s not the only lens by which to see Advent, but it is one of the lens. Advent as warfare. Advent as not just God’s gift sent to Earth in the Son but as God’s assault on the enemy. Jesus as God’s weapon of deliverance not just from the penalty of sin (though that is essential) but also from the power of sin that placed us under the enemy’s thumb.

The story in the Bible prior to Matthew 1 is of Mankind’s bondage, to sin, to brokenness, to rebellion, to internal corruption and deception that leads us to align ourselves with an evil enemy who will only trick us and trample us, and to the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Humanity is imprisoned. Chained. Oppressed, And there is no way of escape, freedom, or deliverance on our own.

The gloomy pale prior to Christ’s coming that so many Christmas speaks to is because we were captured soldiers, thrown into a dark cell, locked up without hope of escape, deep in enemy territory. That is the backdrop of Advent. And that is why when our true King arrives on the scene to do battle with our adversary, suffering a deathly blow Himself but ultimately crushing our enemy under the heel of his boot, freeing us from chains at the cost of his own blood, purchasing our freedom on the cross, and accomplishing the victory that sets us free and brings us into a new kingdom through His resurrection-ascension, we celebrate. Advent is a victory cry and celebration of freedom, paid for and secured by Jesus and His grace, not anything we won or did ourselves.

Advent reminds us of joy in pain, of light entering into and overcoming the darkness, of hope in hardship, and yet all of this begins in the early morning hours as a battle is staged and a victory is secured when Immanuel is born on Earth. Jesus came to us and did for us what we never could, deliver us from our bondage. Jesus came to end a conflict that had raged since the first pages of Scripture. Jesus came to end our warfare. And Jesus will come again, returning to bring the work he started to its full and final completion, which as why we wait (since Advent is both looking back in joy and looking forward in longing).

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