Darkness and Hell at Christmas Time

carols

For some reason Christmas has become too angelic, all lights and glitter and shining cherubs on gaudy Christmas cards. There is some truth to this, of course. When Christ came as a child the true light shineth. But Christmas is also about demons and hell and darkness. It is about the darkness of eternal fire. It is about the terrors of death. It is about the dragons that live in our own hearts. There is nothing wrong with rejoicing in the light, but if we forget the darkness the light loses its potency.  It is easy at Christmas time to take the light for granted. To forget what Christ actually came to do.

It may come as a surprise that many of the Advent and Christmas songs we sing mention this darkness and hell. Here are a few lines from those songs to give some perspective on what Christ came to do.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel is one of the best carols to show who we were before Christ came. It views God’s people as in exile and  bondage to Satan and in need of rescue. Verses 3 and 4 bring this out.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

The fourth verse of the song Savior of the Nations, Come has these lines in it:

From the Father forth he came and returneth to the same
Captive leading death and hell, High the song of triumph swell.

The final verse of Good Christian Men Rejoice, says, “now ye need not fear the grave.”

Joy to the World, talks about Christ coming to make his blessings flow “far as the curse is found.” This includes redemption, but it also includes victory over all his enemies.

Let All Mortal  Flesh Keep Silence, says that Christ descends “from the realms of endless day, that the powers of hell may vanish.”

Lo, How a  Rose E’re Blooming, states that Christ “dispels with glorious splendor/the darkness everywhere.”

Of the Father’s Love Begotten says in verse 3:
He is found in human fashion death and sorrow here to know
That the race of Adam’s children doomed by law to endless woe
May not henceforth die and perish In the
dreadful gulf below evermore and evermore.

I am sure there are some I have missed. Numerous Christmas songs speak specifically of Christ’s victory over sin, which means his victory over death and Hell.

The Scriptures speak of this as well. In Matthew Jesus’ birth is not follow by peace on earth, but by Herod killing the children and Joseph fleeing with his family to Egypt. The battle begins at the Incarnation. Herod knew this. Unfortunately, we often do not.

In Luke we see the same themes of Christ’s Kingship and rule driving out those who oppress His people.

Mary states that when God sent Christ he:
Showed strength with his arm
Scattered the proud
Put down the mighty
Filled the hungry
But sent the rich away empty.

Zacharias says that Christ came so:
We should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us..
That we will be delivered from the hand of our enemies.

Christmas is not just about a child born in a manger. It is about a King who came to banish all the powers of darkness and Hell. When the angel came to Mary and the angels sung to the shepherds the end of our enemies was already at hand. Christ came to destroy all our enemies. So don’t forget darkness, Hell, Satan, Herod, death, and sin during this Christmas. Christ did not come to wear a halo and lay sweetly in a manger. He was King at his birth and came to conquer.

Ten Quotes: God Rest Ye Merry by Douglas Wilson

Just in time for Advent and Christmas here are ten quotes from Douglas Wilson’s book God Rest Ye Merry. 

Bethlehem was the opening gambit in the last campaign of a long war. 

Our good God, our overflowing God, our God of yes and amen, has always been able to promise far more than we are able to believe. I am not here speaking of unbelief, or of hard hearts, which is another problem. I am speaking here of true and sincere faith, a God-given faith, but one which is still infinite, and which God loves to bury under an avalanche of promises. We serve and worship the God who overwhelms, who delights to overwhelm. 

The one who took the position of a servant was given authority over all.

Mary overcame in the way women are called to conquer-by giving birth to conquerors, or by giving birth to daughters who will give birth to conquerors. And this explains how the Magnificat [Luke 1:46-55] can have been composed by a woman and still be so gloriously militant. Godly child-bearing is militant. 

Man in his sinful condition does not want to be saved. That is part of what it means to be a sinner. This means that man wants, by various strategies, to put himself out of God’s reach.

We are told to clothe ourselves with humility and tender mercies. When Jesus told His disciples to follow Him, the cross is certainly in view. But we do not just follow him to the cross-we must also follow Him to the manger. We must become little children. 

There is a vast difference between narrow partisanship and a broad political worldview. Many Christians in their attempts to keep the former out of their spiritual lives, have also found themselves excluding the latter. This is a drastic mistake. In doing this, they have found themselves without a consistent biblical worldview at all–because all worldviews are inescapably political. If you are resolved to be apolitical, you are resolved to abandon the world, to write it off.

The sun has risen. Christ has come. He is the king. The light covers the world. A return to heathen midnight is an impossibility. Those who walk in darkness now are doing so in a world diffused with light. This is hard to do–you have to remain blind, or hide in root cellars. There are ways to stay out of the sunlight, but they are difficult to accomplish.  

We should strive over time to have our celebration of Easter far surpass the glory of Christmas…and we shouldn’t try to fix this by reducing what we do at Christmas.

“Penitential” seasons can be put to a genuinely good use if they are a time when serious, once-for-all mortification of particular sins occurs-if real sins and real bad habits are uprooted from your life.  

And One:

From the very start, from the very beginning, the life of Jesus presented a potent threat to the status quo. This threat was not the result of Herod’s paranoia–Herod knew what many Christians do not. The birth of this child meant that the old way of ruling mankind was doomed. The transition from the old way of rule to the new way of rule was not going to be simple or easy, but it was going to happen.

Quotes From Other Books
The New Pastor’s Handbook by Jason Helopoulos
On Being a Pastor by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg
How to Exasperate Your Wife by Douglas Wilson
The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney
A Son for Glory by Toby Sumpter 
Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer
Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung
Making Gay Okay by Robert Reilly 
Christ Crucified by Donald Macleod
Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God by John Calvin

The God Who Gives


Belgic Confession: Article 1
We all believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that there is a single and simple spiritual being, whom we call God — eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty; completely wise, just, and good, and the overflowing fountain of all good

How you approach Christmas and Thanksgiving says a lot about your view of God the Father. The kind of God you believe in will show up in what you do, how you do it, and why you do it. We see the world around us abuse these two holidays and we wonder how to react. Unfortunately, for many Christians they believe the proper way to put Christ back into Christmas is to become Scrooge. But when they do this they are lying about God. God gives. He has always given.

He gave us a garden where everything was a “yes” except one tree.
He gave Noah a new world.
He gave Abraham a promise of sons, families, and nations.
He gave Israel a land flowing with milk and honey.
He gave Israel a king in glory.
He gave the Word which brings life and rejoicing.
He gave us snow, rain, thunder, lightening, the sun, the stars, spiders, whales, llamas, toads, coal, trees as tall as skyscrapers, canyons as deep as skyscrapers, oceans miles deep, and hearts that beat.
He gave men who made cars, planes, movies, smartphones, computers, houses, guns, toys, books, pens, coffee, pancakes, and underwear.
He gave delight and pleasure and joy.
He gave so we might work again.
He gave so we might rejoice in our labor and the fruits of our labor.
He gave his only Begotten Son to deliver us from the wrath to come.
He gave his only Begotten Son to those who hate Him.
He gave his only Begotten Son so we might have abundant life. If you think this is about your heart only you missed the point.
He gave us his Spirit, poured out on us so we might be new creatures
He gave so we could be naked and not ashamed.
He gave so we could drink beer with a smile and with deep joy.
He gave so we could eat a second piece of pie without worry.
He gave so we could be free.
He gave so we might stop working.
He gave so our bodies might rise from the ground with tongues that taste, ears that hear, noses that smell, hands that touch, and feet that dance.
He gave so we might be glorified.
He gave so we might give.

He did not give with a pursed lip.
He did not give reminding us to not enjoy it too much. “Make sure you don’t get too excited.”
He did not just give to our spirits.
He did not give just enough. He gave abundantly. Imagine if He gave one star? One snowflake?
He did not give to make us feel guilty.
He did not give to get.

How then shall we live? In light of God’s open hand how can we reflect his character?

Give thanks. This means prayers of thanks. It means giving thanks for all who came before us. But it means a lot more than that. Eat your turkey with glad hearts. Laugh. Tell jokes. Take a sip of beer and smile. Rest in the work of Christ by sleeping soundly in your recliner filled to the brim with turkey. Then get up and have some more. Delight in the world God has made by watching football or better yet playing football. If there is snow, sled, come in drink hot chocolate, and then sled again. What about Jesus you say? But when you ask that question that way you miss the point that for the Christian Jesus is in these things. Christ came to save us. But a saved man enjoys what he is given by Jesus. Yes, he gives thanks for Christ, the cross, His Word, worship, and all those good things. Because he gives thanks for Christ and the Cross he also enjoys his daily bread. All things can be received with thanksgiving (I Timothy 4:4-5) because God was manifested in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16). The man who frowns over the good gifts of God is no better than the man who abuses those gifts. You don’t honor Jesus by pretending the gifts weren’t given or by refusing to enjoy them.

Give stuff. Some can give more. Some can give less. But give. Give presents and stockings. Give candy, turkeys, hams, pies, toys, Legos, wine, and cigars. Oh and books, give lots of books. Give memories your children will look back on with joy. Give traditions your children with take with them. Give the gift of delight and pleasure. Give Christ, in word yes, but also in action. Give your children your time. Give your wife an evening in bed…with you having just showered. Sing and make merry.  Put on music and not just Handel’s Messiah, though of course you should do that. Give lights strung up in your children’s bedrooms and leave them on all night. Stay up late and watch Elf or Its a Wonderful Life or A Charlie Brown Christmas or whatever your family enjoys. Give a feast or go to a feast.  If you are not married, go to your family’s Christmas party bearing gifts for parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. Hold one of the little ones on Thanksgiving. Play in the yard with the young boys in your family. Give gifts to your friends and folks at church. Give of your time, your money, your energy and yourself. Give and then give some more.

Christ came so a people could be formed into his image, a people filled with joy, and overflowing with gifts. As good children let us imitate our Father this holiday season.

Smoking Jack’s Pipe: A Horrid Racket

There are some men who are quotable. Two men whose last names begin with “L” come to mind; C.S. Lewis and Martin Luther. Their words were at the same time wonderful and terrible. I do not have a book of Luther quotes, but I do have book of Lewis quotes. I thought I would post a quote or two from time to time. Here are two quotes about Christmas. It makes one wonder what he would say now when it is barely mid-November and Christmas catalogs are out, the Salvation Army is already ringing their bells, and there 47 aisles devoted to Christmas at Wal-Mart.

“I feel exactly as you do about the horrid commercial racket they have made out of Christmas. I send no cards and give no presents except to children.” (Letter, 1953)

“Just a hurried line…to tell a story which puts the contrast between our feast of the Nativity and all this ghastly “Xmas” racket at its lowest. My brother heard a woman on a bus say as the bus passed a church with a crib [manger] outside it ‘O Lord! They bring religion into everything. Look-they’re dragging it even into Christmas now!'” (Letter, 1957)

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Here is one of my favorite Christmas Songs. I heard for the first time two years ago. It is from the Liturgy of St. James. And of course its impact is much greater when sung, as opposed to read.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence
And with fear and trembling stand
Ponder nothing earthly minded
For with blessing in His hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth
Our full homage to demand.

King of Kings yet born of Mary
As of old on earth He stood
Lord of Lords in human vesture
In the body and the blood
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heav’nly food

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the Darkness clears away

At His feet the six winged seraph
Cherubim with sleepless eye
Veil their faces to the presence
As with ceaseless voice they cry
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High.

Is Christmas Pagan?

About this time of year numerous Christians become anxious about celebrating Christmas. Is Christmas Christian? Is Christmas Roman Catholic? Isn’t Christmas a leftover from the pagan nature rituals of the ancient world? Jeff Meyers has done a lot of work on trying to sort out what is true and what is not about the Christmas season, as well as for the whole Church year. He recently posted several links to brief articles he has written answering some common objections to celebrating Christmas. Here are the articles. I encourage you to read the ones that interest you the most. One will not agree with everything that is said, but Meyers will get you thinking about things you haven’t considered before.