“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8
The word “destroy” is not one we usually associate with Christmas. Unless, of course, we are reading Dr. Seuss’ classic book, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, or we are once again faced with some sort of family meltdown. But generally it does not fit in our visions of the quaint nativity scene, or our mountains of presents stock-piled under the Christmas tree.
However, in 1 John 3:8, the Apostle John says “destruction” is precisely the reason for Christmas! He tells us that the reason Jesus appeared, or came, or incarnated, was to destroy the works of the devil. Now, restrain your mind from running straight to visions of outlandish demonic possession. The “works of the devil” are far more subversive, and comprehensive than just overt supernatural phenomena (though they are not less than that).
The original “work” of the devil was prideful rebellion against God (Gen. 3:1-7), a rebellion in which humanity was a culpable participant and is now, as a result, a pitiful captive. The works of the devil, then, are the result of our rebellion. They are all those sinful attitudes and actions that permeate and denigrate human existence. They are the evil, injustice, brutality, suffering, and death that we see around us. They are the pride, anger, greed, lust, and hypocrisy that we see inside of us. They are sin.
But as 1 John 3:8 tells us, the coming of Jesus, which we celebrate every Christmas, is the dawning of light in a world of darkness. The Christmas story is God’s plan to destroy the malevolent grasp of evil and repossess His world and His people. Shockingly, this search and destroy mission is launched in the birth of a child. The triumph of God over the most heinous of evil begins in the most vulnerable of places; the manger. Christmas is, as theologian Michael Bird supposes, “…a bold profession that the despots of this age, political or spiritual, are living on borrowed time.” Indeed, Jesus disarmed the malevolent machinations of the devil on the cross (John 12:31; Heb 2:14), and will finally and fully destroy them upon His return (Rev. 12:1-11).
The message of Christmas, then, is a message of destruction and deliverance. Sin and its degenerative effects in your life and our world are being destroyed, and in Christ our Saviour, deliverance has come. This means, as John Piper explains, “the message of Christmas is that what is good and precious in your life need never be lost, and what is evil and undesirable in your life can be changed.” This is, as the angels declared on that first Christmas night, “good news of great joy” indeed (Luke 2:10).