God himself foretold his coming. Prophets, kings, priests, and peasants echoed history's refrain. And as Father Time marched on, and angelic hosts mounted civil war over the souls of men, and my family - the family of Adam and Eve - fell into the tragic, perverse cycle of rebellion and desperation, transgression and death, as the layers of dried blood coated the earth until all soil screamed crimson for pardon, our old friend and founder worked, ever present, ever persistent, steadily onward preparing a new thing.
We had glimmerings, foreshadowings, and whispers of what might happen. Sometimes he seemed more the conquering king, others the suffering servant. He screamed in agony and came in glory; he found himself between criminals and laid to sleep in a rich man's tomb; he was David's son, Jesse's root; he put Moses to shame and kings to cowering; he brought the violent to judgment and let loose the captives. His victory parade came with rescued captives, their captors in shackles, trailing behind. And he was bruised. He was broken. He was stripped and humiliated. He was glorious and matchless; he was the descendant of David and he was God in flesh.
I heard it said, once, that his first coming was an invasion of stealth, but I fear little stealth was involved. The enemy seemed well aware of his coming. The invasion began quietly enough, but when some angels lose their tempers and strike men mute, then go on to speak tenderly, then cannot contain themselves any longer and burst into song that lights up the sky and shakes men to their knees, there's very little silent about this night.
The truth is, the enemy was moving, too.
This is a tale of anger.
This is a tale of rage.
This is was our friend's D-Day.
But that's our friend for you: He laid out his battle plans for all to see, but we were too stupid to understand. Our eyes and ears were closed, our hearts were made of stone. He came anyway, and we had no comprehension.
For thousands of years, he had watched us sin. We did not respond to discipline, we did not heed the servants he sent. Our hearts proved fickle, our souls that much worse. The blood on hour hands could not be washed away by the blood of animals; the righteous live by faith, and we were faithless.
He could have let us die. Maybe he should have. But we mistook his silence for carelessness and his patience for for fickleness.
For wrath, for mercy, for justice and judgment, for reconciliation and peace, for restoration and freedom, for his glory and our lives, for the righting of all things, he came. His weapons of choice were flesh and blood and bone, a body of clay and the Spirit of God. His transport was a teenager on her donkey, his escort a man with worn hands and neither power or authority of our own.
The King of Kings and God of Gods, the Master, Creator, and Sustainer of the Universe remembered his ancient vow to a shame-filled couple. He remembered the serpent's slander and the couple's pride; he remembered our rebellion and perverse ways; he recalled our treason; he recalled the triumph of Death and the slave-master named Sin; he remembered all our pagan ways and our fickle, fickle hearts and our calloused, worthless designs.
The nations rage; the peoples plot a vain thing;
my family dwells in darkness; we hiss and curse the light.
The blood of innocents cries out; the oppressed scream for relief;
the servants of our friend watch on
as the cup of wrath passes into our hands.
The prince of the power of the air, that ancient foe, heard the swift sound of wind and triumphant angel-song and raised his head, ever so slightly, to discern the sound.
"He will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel."
We'd slain the prophets and stoned those sent to use. He'd tried to gather us to pick us up and comfort us, but we wouldn't come. We would not come to him, so he came to us.
He came with rage against Sheol's maw, rage against the chains of sin, and violence against the killing snake who incited an infanticide once he'd realized who had entered his domain. We didn't recognize him, but the enemy certainly did. Perhaps he thought the march to Bethlehem would kill the child while within the womb. Certainly it wasn't by chance that the governor's mind filled with fear and hate; certainly twas no coincidence that that same governor died mysteriously after having failed.
That was the way of it: Heaven invaded Earth, and Earth retaliated. Our old friend became one of us, and our enemy tried to kill him, even from the womb. While angels sharpened blades of favor, demons sharpened blades of war; while a teenager carried life, Death rode on the back of a jealous ruler, this death he came to slay. The Cross was his killing stroke, on ground of his own choosing, but the Cradle proved the landing of our dread champion on enemy soil. And the invading army's battle cry was "Glory, glory to God in the highest! And on earth, peace toward men, with whom God has found favor!"
Our old friend and lord, our everlasting king, stepped onto human soil, the air a-chill and musty, dense with animal smell. And his voice sounded over the rest - behind it all the memories of thousands of years of injustice and oppression, rebellion and tyranny - it rang louder throughout the night, at last settling in to drink.
The enemy heard and trembled, for the great lord put his hand upon the ax and turned toward the tree.