Theology 101

What Do D-Day and Christmas Have in Common?

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Chuck Colson, in his 2012 book The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters, included a chapter entitled, “The Invasion.” There he describes the most important event of the Second World War, the D-Day Invasion.

Most of us have watched in horror the scenes in movies like Saving Private Ryan that depict the sacrifices of those who stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the largest seaborne military landing in history. Over 2,400 U.S. soldiers were killed in the first hours of the fighting.

By the end of that first terrible day, the Allied troops had established a beachhead in Normandy and, for all intents and purposes, World War II in Europe was over. Everyone, even the Germans, knew that the war would end with Germany’s defeat, yet the fighting continued for almost another year.

Between D-Day and the surrender of the Germans (V-E Day) came the Battle of the Bulge, a desperate counterattack by the German army, fought during one of the worst winters in European history. Even though the Germans knew they were defeated, the battle raged on for six weeks through the Christmas of 1944. It was the deadliest battle for American forces during the war with over 19,000 U.S. soldiers killed.

Christ’s Victory: Past, Present, and Future

Christ’s first coming was D-Day. It was the decisive invasion of “the war” against sin and death, guaranteeing the enemy’s eventual defeat. Colson compares the invasion of Normandy with the “invasion” of God on Christmas Day. He writes:

In one sense, the great invasions of history are analogous to the way in which God, in the great cosmic struggle between good and evil, chose to deal with Satan’s rule over the earth—He invaded. But not with massive logistical support and huge armies; rather, in a way that confounded and perplexed the wisdom of humanity.

As we prepare to move into the Christmas season and celebrate the birth of our Lord, we must remember that this baby, born in a manager, came to change everything. Through his life, death, and resurrection, he would strike a death blow to sin, death, and Satan and establish the kingdom of God.

God’s kingdom will be consummated when Christ returns at his second coming, which will be our V-E Day. Yet as Christians today, we must remember we live in a spiritual war zone. We live our lives between D-Day and V-E Day, in the Battle of the Bulge.

We are all Christian soldiers, but our struggle is not against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12-13). The outcome of the conflict is certain and our victory is sure, but the enemy is throwing everything at the army of God in the fiercest battle of the war. This makes the need to understand what we do in our daily work and its importance to God and his kingdom all the more critical.

We see an example of this in Daniel. Just as Daniel and his friends were captives of an enemy power as they worked for the “welfare of the city” (Jer. 29:7), through our work, we get glimpses of liberation, the way things will be when Christ returns, even though we might feel tethered to a broken world.

We must see our vocational calling within the context of pushing back the darkness. Cornelius Plantinga, in his book Engaging God’s World, talks about the struggle of fulfilling our work in the kingdom, but the victorious, enduring nature of that work in the world to come:

A Christian who goes to work for the kingdom (that’s every Christian) simultaneously goes to war. What’s needed on God’s side are well-educated warriors (warriors who know what’s going on). We are now fallen creatures in a fallen world. The Christian gospel tells us that all hell has broken loose in this sad world and that, in Christ, all heaven has come to do battle. Christ has come to defeat the powers and principalities, to move the world over onto a new foundation, and to equip a people—informed, devout, determined people—to lead the way in righting what’s wrong, transforming what’s corrupted, in doing things that make for peace, expecting these things will travel across the border from this world to the new heaven and earth.

Christmas is a story of an engagement that will end with a great sacrifice (Christ’s) and through that sacrifice a great victory (for us!).

As we sing songs of peace and joy let us not forget that, as Queen Lucy states in C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle, “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

Editor’s Note: Continue reading about the kingdom of God and its impact on our work in How Then Should We Work?

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Photo: DVIDSHUB CC BY-ND

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