“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16 (NIV)
June 5, 1944 looked nothing like what we picture when we think “Christmas Eve”. The pictures that come to mind are certainly less jolly. A woman waiting in line for rations to feed her family is told there is nothing left; come back tomorrow. A man watches nervously as a German patrol passes his house; if they find the Jews hiding in his basement, he and his family will all be sent to a concentration camp. A French Resistance officer makes plans to fight against the Nazi occupiers, knowing that it will make little difference in the overall fight. A Jewish prisoner in a cattle car tries not to sink into despair at the fate that awaits her.
What all these people are awaiting is an invasion. Evil has taken over this land, and only an outside force can drive it away. All of Europe waits in expectant hope — or nervous fear — for this invasion. What only a few people know is that tomorrow is D-Day, and once the allies get their foothold, everything will change. Once it happens it marks the beginning of something amazing: those who were oppressed will find freedom, those who confess their dark deeds and surrender will find pardon, but those that fight to the end will meet the fate they deserve.
As I read the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Messiah, I’m struck time and time again with the imagery of a divine invasion. It foretells a heavenly D-Day, when the forces of heaven invade earth and drive out the forces of darkness. Consider this passage:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.” Micah 5:2 (NIV)
I’m used to hearing that read while looking at images of a sleeping baby lying cozily in a manger. But reading the whole passage gives a different view. The chapter begins with, “Marshal your troops now…” and goes on to show how the enemies of God’s people will be overthrown and their rule ended. For the modern reader, Advent might mean looking forward with expectation of presents, time with family, and good cheer. And those are all good and proper things to associate with Christmas. But to the ancient reader, they would have expected something else: one day God’s forces will establish a beachhead in our world, mobilizing to overthrow the forces of darkness and utterly drive them out from this world.
Just as the ancient Israelites looked forward to a divine invasion to defeat evil, I think we can come into Advent with a hopeful expectation of that final victory. Just as D-Day spelled the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany, so Christmas spells the beginning of the end for the Adversary. The forces of good have established their foothold, and it’s only a matter of time before the war is ended. These problems we face will not last, and so we celebrate a victory we do not yet see, at least not in full.
Prayer: Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus.
~ Cameron Miller, Writer
~ Danyelle Yoder, Painter, https://www.danyelleyoder.com