Many have said that nothing unites like a common enemy. In business, startups will unite as insurgents to take down the incumbent. In politics, leaders bring people together against the other side. Defeating a common enemy can be a powerful unifier and motivator. In a divisive year there seems to be a greater desire to unite against some other side, a longing to come together against a common enemy. The enemy can easily become those who view politics differently, masks differently, social unrest differently, a vaccination differently, church gatherings differently, the election differently, etc. Sadly, in this season even friends and family members have become enemies for some.
At Christmas we celebrate the good news that Jesus came here to defeat our enemies but perhaps we need to be reminded who our real enemies are. After all, our Christian faith teaches us that our real enemies are not flesh and blood.
In the Christmas story we see Zechariah celebrating the reality that Jesus was coming to this world to defeat our enemies. After nine months of silence because he did not believe the angel’s announcement, Zechariah was finally able to speak when John the Baptist was born. Just as his wife has been pregnant with their son for nine months, Zechariah had been pregnant with incredible words describing the coming Messiah:
Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited
and provided redemption for his people.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David,
just as he spoke by the mouth
of his holy prophets in ancient times;
salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of those who hate us.
This is the only time this phrase “horn of salvation” is in the New Testament. In the Old Testament the language is used to describe the defeating and scattering of enemies (Psalm 92:9-10 as example). Jesus is the horn of salvation, the Anointed King who defeats our enemies.
When Zechariah prophesized this, the Jewish people were under Roman rule in their own land. They also struggled with political and religious division among themselves. It was a very tense time. Each group wanted a Leader for their side, a political Messiah to overthrow Rome and resolve issues in their day. Many people could have easily taken Zechariah’s prophecy to be assurance that the Messiah was coming to defeat their political enemies.
Jesus disappointed those people greatly because He came to defeat a different set of enemies. Jesus did not enter our world to defeat the common enemies of the day. He did not come to fight Rome, but to fight and defeat our sin and shame. Ultimately, Jesus did not come to restore the political systems of that day, but to restore us to Himself. Jesus came as a very different King, a King that serves and suffers. Yet also a King that conquered death and Satan, the accuser and the liar who only seeks to destroy us.
Just as people were disappointed with Jesus, we too will be disappointed with Jesus if we forget who our real enemies are. If we think our enemies are flesh and blood, people with different views than us, we will be disappointed. If Jesus disappoints you, He will disappoint you because He is not focused on conquering what you are hoping He will conquer. But if we remember who our real enemies are, then we rejoice in the beauty of Christmas, the conquering news of Christmas. Through His birth, perfect life, sacrificial death, and conquering resurrection He has defeated our enemies of sin, shame, and death. He has rescued us from the grasp of the enemy and He will never let us go.