“And there was war in heaven.” Revelation 12:7
The cause for this war? The birth of the child who would become the ruler of the nations. The same reason that the western world celebrates every year brought war in heaven between the powers of evil and the powers of good. We are so easily lulled into pleasant complacency at the niceness of the Christmas story that we forget that it provoked the slaughter of innocents by an angry and jealous King Herod in the first century, and a fierce battle in heaven between Michael and his angels and “the dragon and his.”
Herod failed, and ultimately died, now largely forgotten except for his part in the yearly Christmas play. The dragon “was hurled down… and his angels with him.”
And yet, though the war was won, there are still battles. There is still evil aplenty in this world, often directed against the followers of this same Jesus, who did not remain a baby, but grew to become perhaps the most influential and controversial man to have ever lived. Our town was rocked about two weeks ago by the murder of a lecturer at our local university, a 40 year old Syrian orthodox man who has published research about interethnic conflict from his country of origin. His throat was cut in a traditional method of slaughter, which represents the silencing of a voice. The murderer was not caught. The motive is not known. But it seems the victim’s voice was intended to be silenced. The Syrian community in Örebro is in mourning.
Only a few days before that we had been shocked by the news of a shooting at a YWAM base in Denver, Colorado. A young man came to the door and began shooting. Two dead, two others injured. Later he went to a church in a neighbouring town and shot another five people. Two more died. Motive unknown.
The attempt to silence Jesus may have failed, but the perpetrators of evil have not disappeared from the world. And just as there was much weeping at the first Christmas, there will be much weeping at this one.
Yet Jesus was not destroyed, and his voice of life and hope is still being heard. Although sometimes it seems dim amidst the materialistic, consumerist clamour that surrounds us at Christmas.