We all know the hero in the story of Christmas: Jesus, the Son of God come to earth. But without a villain there can be no hero. We need to recognize the archenemy in the narrative of Christmas. His name is Satan, a.k.a. Beelzebub, the Devil, the Prince of Darkness, the Evil One.
We do ourselves a great disservice by ignoring the Enemy's role in the story of Jesus coming to earth. As captivating as the feel-good storyline is, what with the virgin birth, the Messiah in a feeding trough, and a sky full of angels, when we don't recognize the villain, the story of Christmas loses all dramatic impact. It's like Peter Pan without Captain Hook. The Wizard of Oz without the Wicked Witch of the West. Die Hard without Hans Gruber. Moby Dick without, well, Moby Dick.
Yes, it's true. God sent His Son to the world in the form of a baby to save us from our sins, to restore us to right relationship with Him. But we will never grasp the significance of God's generous gift to us until we identify the villain in the story and give him his due.
We have a powerful enemy. We cannot ignore that. And he has but one objective--to keep us as far away from God as possible. He knows what God and us together can do. So he works long and hard to separate us from God, to keep us stuck in our sinful thoughts, behaviors, and addictions. He is cunning and smart. He knows everything about us--our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, our blind spots. And that is precisely where he attacks.
The Bible warns us of the enemy's presence and offers this stern warning: Stay sober, stay alert! Your enemy, the Adversary, stalks about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8, CJB). What a terrifying and precise word picture. We must never forget that the Devil is always on the prowl, waiting to pounce when we least suspect it; seeking to rip from our grasp God's gracious gifts of love, joy, hope, and peace and force on us his onerous offerings of fear, shame, discontent, and hate, of which he has an endless supply.
Jesus was born to set us free, to release us from our sins and fears. But that is not to say that His coming into the world and into our lives has stopped the Enemy from carrying out his dirty deeds. We will continue to do battle with Satan as long as we are on this earth. Jesus didn't come to take our adversity away. He came to help us get through it and point us to a future life with Him where there will be no trials or troubles. His words recorded in John 16 are both frightening and comforting: Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world (Jn. 16:33, NLT).
We need to recognize the presence of the enemy in the Christmas story and in our lives. But we must also stand firm in the truth that as powerful and persistant as he is, he is no match for Jesus. Our battles with him continue. But, thanks be to God, the war has been won!
Hail, the heaven-born Prince of peace!
Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King.