Like so many churches throughout the country, yesterday we welcomed a host of friends and family members for our carols by candelight service. I decided to try something a little bit different in light of the different format and the number of visitors we expected to have with us.
So I tried my hand at conveying the story of Christmas within the wider story of the universe taking the theme of the battle between good and evil. And all in 10 minutes! For those of you who missed it, or who have a spare 10 minutes, here is what we thought about together. Not perfect by any means, but I did enjoy the challenge of communicating the ‘grand storyline’ of the Bible. I wonder what you would choose to include if you had 5-10 minutes to share the gospel with a friend or colleague?
The Promised Champion
Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a Hollywood blockbuster. Which movie gets your vote for the best of all time? Is there a particular movie that kick-starts the festive season in your household?
When you examine the festive box office success stories, they tend to fall into 1 of 3 camps:
There are Santa/ Elves/ Santa and Elves stories. Think Elf
Then there are families on the brink saved by Christmas stories. Like It’s a wonderful life
I am interested in category number 3. It is the all action epics depicting the battle of good vs evil. This year it is Star Wars, but previously we have had Harry Potter, LOTR, and of course… Home Alone
Their constant appeal appears to be rooted deep in our psyche. We want to feel that good will triumph over evil, that darkness will give way to the light, our hope is that “all that is sad is going to come untrue” to quote Samwise Gamgee. Confronted with so much horror in the media and sadness on our streets, we long for peace.
These stories of good defeating evil take us right to the heart of the story of the universe, in which the coming of Jesus into our world in that manger in Bethlehem plays a crucial part.
So let me tell you that story, the Bible in 5 scenes. It is the story of the great battle between good and evil, and the promise of a hero, a champion, to provide the victory we all want.
Scene 1 – The Garden
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. His powerful word spoke our universe into existence. And the centrepiece, the masterpiece of this vast universe? Us!
Humanity. Male and Female. Adam and Eve. A perfect world and perfect friendship with God. But soon the darkness came. Into that perfect environment came the snake, Satan, to tempt Eve. Tempting her with the notion that real freedom and joy is found in rejecting God’s good rule, Tempting her with the power to decide for themselves what is right and wrong.
Eve took the bait as she swallowed the forbidden fruit. Darkness came into the human heart. Perfection was gone, replaced by guilt, fear, and shame. The poison of sin went deep, and we are all affected. That instinct to turn our back on our Creator God, to pursue value in anything and everything except the One who made us for a relationship of love, is universal. The so-called freedom of self-rule brought suffering, pain, and ultimately death into every human experience.
But into the darkness, God, the creator, the light of the world, spoke a word of promise and hope. As the battle between good and evil began to rage on the earth, God promised a coming champion, one who would crush Satan and his evil power. In the face of our rebellion, God sets in motion his plan for restoration and true freedom.
Scene 2 – The Battlefield
Fast forward hundreds of years. And all that time the war between good and evil has been fierce. By now God has chosen the nation of Israel as his chosen means to bring the light of his goodness into his world. Yet all the while the forces of darkness have raged against the light.
On the battlefield this particular day stands Goliath, a ferocious warrior standing some 9 feet tall, and a young shepherd boy called David. Goliath, the champion of the forces seeking to destroy God’s people comes heavily armed with all the weapons of war. And David? He comes armed with a catapult…and his trust in the promises of God.
Here is the battle of good versus evil played out in the lives of these two men. And the outcome? Goliath, the enemy of God’s people is taken down by David, the shepherd who would become king.
Many hundreds of years later, from the town of Bethlehem, from the family of King David, would come another hero, God’s promised champion, and this time the victory would be even more decisive.
David, the shepherd-boy secured national freedom for Israel, a signpost to the coming one, ‘David’s greater Son’ and his mission to secure freedom from the enslaving power of our sinful disobedience and to establish peace with God for all who will trust in him.
Scene 3 – The Manger
Still the war rages. The might of the Roman Empire occupies and rules over God’s people Israel. God has been silent for over 400 years. Evil and darkness seem to have the upper hand. The light appears dim and hope is fading.
But into the darkness comes a promise. God breaks the silence with a word of hope delivered by the angel Gabriel to a young teenage girl:
“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, his kingdom will never end.”
And just as the angel promised, nine months later a child is born. Among the animals, to a poor young virgin girl in a small backwater village, God’s light had dawned!
The glorious light of the angels announcing the birth to a group of outcast shepherds out in the hills. The pure light of the King’s star in the sky drawing the wise men to worship.
But once more the forces of darkness are awakened. Herod tries to destroy the child born to be king. But God’s promise would not fail. His promised champion would be kept safe until the final battle.
Scene 4 – The Cross and Empty Tomb
The child grows and becomes the man Jesus. Living in obedience to God’s good plan, empowered by God, and confirmed as the Son whom God the Father loves, Jesus begins to fulfil the promise of the coming champion. Sickness and disease give way to restoration, the dead are returned to life, and evil spirits are driven out. Glimpses of his new kingdom of life and light are visible for those with eyes to see.
The powers of evil align together to oppose him. He is rejected for being too welcoming to the outcasts of society, despised for being too gracious, hated for his claims to forgive sins and grant eternal life, seen as a threat to both power and pride.
And so God’s long-awaited king, his promised champion is arrested, mocked, abused, and then hung to die on a Roman cross. Publicly shamed, dying in the darkness, the prince of peace is murdered and his lifeless body placed inside a cold rock tomb.
To his friends the darkness had won. To his enemies, they had achieved their great victory.
Then, three days later, just as the sun began to rise in the eastern sky over Jerusalem, Jesus rose in victory from the dead. God’s champion had faced down the full force of evil and the destruction of death, and had won!
In the greatest single act of love this universe will ever witness, good triumphs over evil as we discover Jesus hurled himself into that darkness to save us from our sin and from ourselves, emerging in victory to secure victory for all who trust in him.
Jesus, God’s promised champion, through his obedient life and sacrificial death reverses the curse under which we all live, so that trusting in him, God’s great gifts of life and love come to us.
Scene 5 – The Throne
Behind this story there lies a question. The big question is why? Why the entrance into our world? Why the awful death of horror and shame? Why the return to life again? And what has all this got to do with the grand story of the universe and the battle between good and evil?
All of which takes us to our final scene. A scene that hasn’t come to pass just yet. But it will because God is the great promise-keeper.
One day Jesus will return. Not this time as a vulnerable baby born in an obscure corner of Israel. He will return in the glory of heaven and everyone will see him on that day as he comes to judge the living and the dead.
He is coming to make everything new. For his people on that day, everything sad is going to come untrue forever. It will be like the garden, only this time it will be a great garden-city, and this time it will be forever.
No more tears. No more cancer. No more Aleppos. No more division in society. All such things replaced by feasting and joy. Love and peace. Jesus and his people united together forever. It’s the world we all want. The happily ever after we all long for. The victory of good over evil once and for all.
The hopes and longings we harbour for ourselves, our families and our world, find their ultimate answer in Jesus, God’s promised champion.
This is the grand story of Christmas. This can be your story. If you accept the invitation to enjoy the gift of love extended to you by Jesus Christ, the child in the manger born to be the saviour of the world.