Seasons greetings everyone, Rob here.
Christmas in New Zealand is a bit different from the traditional images of winter wonderlands, eggnog and sleighs. It’s early summer. The days are long, the weather’s getting warmer, school’s out for summer and holidays by the beach are beckoning. Rather than being a short break from the drudgery of winter, Christmas is a gateway into a longer time of fun and rest. It’s represented by the Pohutukawa tree that blooms every Christmas by our beaches. To me this is quite symbolic of what the Christmas story is all about. Jesus came into this world to give us a whole new life, one that comes from heaven to earth. John 10:7-10 says this:
Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that may have life and have it to the full.’
There we have it. Jesus is the gateway into ‘the life that is truly life (Dallas Willard)’. This is the life that is not only unending, but of the highest quality. There is peace with God and harmony with others. It is the presence of Shalom, the life of God filling ours to overflowing.
But these words of Jesus tell us also of the battle that rages over that life. There is an enemy who is set against us. He seeks to turn us away from the gate that gives life and lead us into wastelands that only bring death. The fact that we’re described as sheep tells us of our vulnerability. If we’re not focussed on the one who is the gate, the shepherd and the Saviour we will fall prey to the devil’s rage. If you read Revelation 12, Christmas from heaven’s viewpoint, you will see this played out in dramatic detail.
Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring – those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus (verse 17).
Christmas is real life. It’s a real story about heaven invading earth to rescue humanity from a rampaging devil. It’s about a curse being overthrown, grace and truth replacing legalism and lies, death being overthrown by life everlasting and chaos replaced by Shalom. It’s about a battle still raging but a war that has already been won. It’s an invitation to discover afresh that our rescue lies in Jesus and as we enter into his life, death, resurrection and rule, we can resist the devil and watch him flee from us. We can know healing, breakthrough, joy and peace. We can become better, holier people who forgive freely, give generously and love well. We can learn to live from our hearts that have been made new.
It’s the good news of Christmas for north and south, those in winter or summer, for all of humanity: the gate that leads to life is open. Thank you Jesus.