There’s a version of Jesus we spend a lot of time with at Christmas, but there’s a problem with him.
I call him “pobrecito Jesus” (which means “poor little Jesus” in English).
To be frank, he’s a helpless little baby, swaddled up, and chubby-cheeked. We say “aww” when we see him and “how cute” but never “that’s exactly who I need right now.”
The problem is that this Jesus is good for making you feel warm and fuzzy for a few minutes while you look at lights, but not much else. He’s perfect for Precious Moments nativity scenes and a cup of hot cocoa but he’s the last person you want when you’re in the midst of a terrible trial, or when you’re powerless and looking for help.
Now, to be sure there are powerful truths we see when we see the baby Jesus. We see his humanity on display like nowhere else, the glory of the incarnation in a unique splendor. The problem is that Christmas often has a way of bringing out our deep weaknesses. It shines light on areas like our limited finances, our fragile health, our broken relationships, our helplessness to change someone’s heart.
Is there a Jesus that can help us here?
A Warrior God
One of the titles given to describe Jesus long before his birth was “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). It looks beautiful on a Christmas card alongside “wonderful counselor” and “prince of peace” but it’s more than a nice title.
This is a term only used for God himself but now is being applied to this coming King. This phrase has overtones of battle. Some translations could be “warrior God.” God is spoken of as being Israel’s warrior, the one who fights on their behalf, and this king will do the same.
And this is exactly what we see a few verses earlier. The section pictures this light coming over the horizon to a dark land and then shows us war-torn country that is being healed:
You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire (Is 9:3-5).
This is a warrior whose mighty deeds win lasting peace.
The Warrior Who Wields Creation
This language of “yoke” and “staff” and especially “rod of the oppressor” are references back to the slavery in Egypt. In Exodus 6 God says “I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.”
This phrase “an outstretched arm” means that God will extend his power, he will roll up his sleeves, he will go to war.
And he does go to war. God rains plague after plague down on Egypt: he turns the entire Nile to blood, he turns their source of life into a plague of frogs, he turns their air into a swarm of gnats and flies, he takes their economy and their livestock and shatters it, he takes their health and beauty and sends boils all over them, he takes the sky the realm of their gods and he sets it on fire with hail and lightning, and then whatever is left the locusts eat, he takes on their sun God Ra and blots out the sun, he sends the angel of death.
Then when the Egyptian military pursues his people God smashes them with the power of a sea itself.
God stretches out his hand and doesn’t just wrestle with them he devastates them—he goes to war against their economy their pride their false gods and their whole nation he wins.
In Exodus 15 Moses and the people sang this song, “The Lord is a man of war the Lord is his name!…Your right hand, O Lord, is glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy, in the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries, you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.” (I can’t imagine why this one isn’t a Contemporary Christian Music hit.)
When God promises in Isaiah to send them a king who would break yokes and break rods of oppression this is what they’re thinking.
Is this the Jesus you’re thinking of at Christmas?
The Warrior Who Wields Strength Through Weakness
There’s also a reference in Isaiah 9 to the “day of Midian.”. This is actually referring to the Old Testament story of Gideon. During the time of the judges, God’s people have their own land but they’re being oppressed and attacked by their neighbors Midian.
God finds this coward Gideon hiding from the enemy and calls him to lead an army against the enemy. Then, God reduces Gideon’s army down from 32,000 to 10,000 to just 300. And then with those 300 people, God destroys an entire army of Midian. How? Because in the face of Gideon’s fear God replies simply “But I will be with you.”
This warrior who takes on armies of thousands with a handful of men is the same warrior of Exodus who defeated Egypt. God is saying this “Mighty God” would conquer the battlefield and break oppression single-handedly. And this same warrior is promised in the coming King of Isaiah’s prophecy.
Is this the Jesus you’re thinking of at Christmas?
The Warrior Who Dies and Yet Lives
During Jesus’ ministry we see him show glimpses of this power as Mighty God:
- Jesus’ power extends over all creation. With a word in the midst of a terrifying storm, in an instant, it’s calm.
- Jesus’ power is extended against injustice and for the weak. He drives out the greedy from God’s temple and cares for children and the vulnerable.
- Jesus power extends over every kingdom of darkness. He casts out demon after demon and all the demons fear him.
But instead of conquering Rome as his people expected, Jesus went to the cross and died. It looked like the mission was a failure.
But the mission wasn’t a failure because Jesus wasn’t fighting enemies as small as Rome and Caesar. He was fighting for our eternal salvation, our eternal life, not just the life in this short life.
Jesus’ strength as a warrior was displayed in taking all the blows we could not. He went to the cross and won our salvation. And further, Jesus didn’t fully complete his mission either. Jesus came once but he promises that he will come again. And when he comes again he will destroy every enemy that he left undestroyed. He is both the infant in the manger and the rider on the white horse armed for battle in Revelation.
The Warrior We Need
When we need help it matters immensely whether the person we’re asking for help actually has the power to help us. Recently, I had to call customer service to try to get an order stopped and changed. The customer service rep was friendly and sympathetic. He clearly wanted to help me. I asked him, “So what can you do?”
And he said, “Well, nothing.” In the end, after all that sympathy and all those kind words, he just couldn’t do anything to help.
Sometimes I think we have the same view of Jesus. He’s human, he’s empathetic, and he would help if he could. But that’s entirely the opposite of the rescuer Isaiah promised and the rescuer God sent to us.
So in light of who he is, what do you need to bring to Jesus this Christmas? What situations feel impossible for you to handle on your own? Remember he is powerful through weakness. What situations feel insurmountable? Remember he commands every realm with a word.
The manger reveals a God who sympathizes with our human frailty. The Bible also reveals a warrior king who is mighty God, ready to fight on behalf of his people.
Go to him. Rest in him. Rejoice in him.