When a Baby Means War
It’s the time of year when I’m forced to think of Jesus not as a grown man dying on a Roman cross or as an intercessor pleading my sorry case at the heavenly throne but as a newborn. Images and stories and songs of His birth make me ask, “What does it mean that He was a baby?”
I have seen a culture’s answer. That He was a baby– and held fast in time in our minds as that baby– means He is safe and sweet and pure. It means He is holdable, manageable, tame. Even many of my non-Christian friends can stomach a story of a new baby that makes people feel warm at its telling.
I have seen a church’s answer. That He was a baby– and quickly wrested from His cradle and held to His cross in our minds– means He is sacrificial and gory and slain. It means He is lamenting, grieving, guilt-bearing.
And I think some of these things are true. But I’ve grown dissatisfied with the disparate pictures each answer offers because neither seems full. As I thought how I might more truthfully hold Him in mind and heart this season, I came across a new Christmas song, and it has made all the difference.
As soon as I began listening to Dustin Kensrue’s “This Is War,” I was struck by the powerful instrumentation. The gentle piano and stringed instruments of traditional Christmas music were replaced here by pounding drums and electric strings, and, combined with the unusual title, I could tell at once that this was going to be a different kind of Christmas song. Not calm, not still; alive with power.
Right away, too, his voice– coarse but melodic– grabbed me, and although I realize the true meaning of Christmas isn’t entirely about sexy voices, I think this particular voice in this particular song hints at that missing meaning of Jesus as baby– beauty in grit.
We think of the new Baby bringing light; we think of the risen Savior bringing life. But this song makes me see that He brings light and life by bringing not a warm, generic peace, but a fierce, targeted war. The baby brings war on evil, and its spoils are light. The baby brings war on sin, and its spoils are life.
We sing songs about a baby of whom angels sing, but in this song, Dustin Kensrue sings also about a baby whom demons fear. And I love that image because it lets me see Jesus in full. A baby whom demons fear.