In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made .through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14)
There’s a phrase I’ve had to pick up on since moving to Green Bay. Here it is: “There is your dagger!” Have you heard that? “There is your dagger” is a favorite saying of the Packers’ radio announcer—Wayne Larrivee. He likes to predict when the game for all intents and purposes is over. When there’s a late touchdown or an interception in the fourth quarter that seals the deal on the game, he shouts: “Ladies and gentlemen, there is your dagger!” It’s like saying it’s the “nail in the coffin.” When the opposing team no longer has any chance to win, “There is your dagger!”
So if Wayne Larrivee had announced the epic struggle between God and the devil, when do you think he would have said, “There is your dagger”? Maybe a better way to put it would be, “When did the devil know it was over?” Maybe you’d start with Ascension Day. As the devil watched Jesus ascend victoriously to take his throne at God’s right hand, the devil knew it was over! Or maybe you’d back up to Easter Sunday. When Christ broke the bonds of death once and for all, then the devil knew it was over! Or maybe you’d go back to Good Friday. When the devil heard Christ shout “It is finished” on the cross—sins forgiven—he knew it was over! Or maybe you’d be so bold as to call the game way back on that wedding day in Cana, when the Son of Man first proved he was God’s Son by turning water into wine. When did the devil know it was over?
If you want to be first to make the call, I’d say it was this day: Christmas. I’d say the devil knew it was over the day God became a man. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The devil knew it was over the day the Word became flesh. The devil knows God all too well. The devil once lived with God in heaven—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He watched as the Word of God—Jesus—made seas and plants and animals. The devil heard that Word expel him from heaven. The devil knows about God and his Word—his Son—all too well.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Since forever, Jesus has lived in heaven with God the Father. Jesus was God. Jesus is God. Jesus always will be God. The devil knew Jesus—God’s Son—from his own time in heaven. As long as Jesus stayed there, the devil must have thought he had a chance. In fact, it would seem like that’s how the story should have ended—with Jesus in heaven. Why would he want to leave? Jesus was enjoying the perfect life of heaven. That’s exactly where we want to be. As long as Jesus stayed in heaven, the devil maybe felt like he had a chance on earth.
So when “the Word became flesh,” I bet the devil said, “Oh, boy.” When the devil saw the virgin’s arms holding Him whom heaven cannot contain, he knew it was over. Ringing in his ears was God’s promise in the Garden of Eden that the Son of Eve would crush his head. The devil was terrified of the Word. He was terrified of the day God’s Son would be a woman’s Son and live on earth. Even in that little manger, the devil recognized him: This is the Word! This was Christ. The One promised by prophets. He had come. God’s plan to save us was in motion, and there was no turning back. When the devil saw God made flesh, he knew that all his lying and tempting would fail: It was over. There in the manger is your dagger! What do you think?
Before that first Christmas, the devil had held out hope. He saw a world walking in darkness—just the way he liked it. He saw a world where sin was increasing. It sure seemed like he was succeeding in his plan to drag mankind with him into hell. It didn’t seem possible that God would come to save this people. They didn’t deserve it! The devil knows how perfect God is. He knows how sinful we are. Exact opposites—us and God!—as different as darkness and light. There was no reason God should become man to save this people! Surely the God who had cast the devil out of heaven would soon cast mankind down to hell. The devil was holding out hope.
Until this day. Until the Word became flesh. Until “the true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” The One who would soon say: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). The One who would soon promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).
“The Word became flesh.” Those sound like such simple words. But make no mistake about who was in that manger: This was God who had come to save his people! The eternal God wrapped up his light and his life and his Word and himself and somehow fit himself into a little seven or eight pound baby. The Word of God through whom the universe was created was suddenly unable to speak anything but an infant’s cry. For God to save our sinful flesh, he had to become flesh for us. So God gave us himself as the first Christmas present: Our Savior Jesus. To be born for us. To live for us. To die for us. To rise for us. So that we might become the children of God.
When was it over for Satan? When God was born. Because when God starts something, he always finishes it. Once God lay in a manger, there was no doubt he would also hang on a cross. We couldn’t go to God, so God came to us. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” When the world sees that little baby in the manger, it smiles briefly and then walks right back into its darkness. But when the devil sees that baby in the manger, he trembles and shakes. He knows it’s over. The Light has come. There in the manger is your dagger!
I’d like to just say, “Amen!” Except, if that’s really true, why doesn’t it look like Jesus won? Why does it look like the darkness is getting darker? Why does it look like the devil is gaining strength? Through Jesus “all things were made,” the Bible says. Who believes that anymore? A new children’s book came out recently—“Grandmother Fish.” It teaches kids exactly what the title says—about their distant Grandmother Fish. Darkness. John tells us that Jesus came from the Father “full of grace and truth.” Compare that with “What’s true for you isn’t true for me.” How often do you hear that? How can a society function without truth? I guess we’re finding out. Darkness. “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,” John said. Who today is willing to stand up and say that Jesus Christ is the “One and Only”? It’s hard enough to say “Merry Christmas.” “The world did not recognize him.” Now that actually sounds true!
But that’s not the saddest part. It’s not just the world “out there” that opposes God at every turn. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” It’s me! It’s your sinful nature. There is darkness inside of us, and we know it. It’s one of the scariest parts of life. There is a part of you and me that opposes everything God says—his Word. The light is shining, yet we close our eyes and choose to live in darkness. If a play-by-play announcer were announcing your life, how would that go? I bet he’d have a lot of chances to say, “There is your dagger!” Not because we’re winning. That sin. Then that sin. Like nails in the coffin. Hell should be our home. The game should be over. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”
Now think back to Jesus in heaven. He had a choice. He could stay in heaven or come to our broken world. He could live forever in the light or come to our world of darkness. What would you have done? I would have stayed! I would have said, “It’s not my problem.” “They messed up.” But what did Jesus choose? You. He chose you. “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” Jesus is the only Son of God, but he didn’t want it to stay that way. Jesus became a child to make us God’s children.
I know two families who have adopted children from other countries over the past six months. It’s quite a process! Those parents sacrifice so much. Lots of time and lots of money and lots of headaches. All to bring home a child who needs lots of care and love and support. But do you know what I see on the faces of those children? Joy. Joy that flows from grateful hearts for being adopted. Out of the blue, they were given new life. A real family. They are loved and cared for like they’ve never known before. That’s grace! You can see the joy on those children’s faces. That child is you. That’s the joy that God gives us at Christmas. “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” That’s you!
Because Jesus did what God always does. He ran toward sinners, not away from us. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Jesus did not shy away from sin. He did not shy away from us. Once Jesus lay in a manger, there was no turning back. Not until he proved his power by turning water into wine. Not until he shouted “It is finished!” when sins were forgiven on the cross. Not until he broke the bonds of death on Easter Sunday. Not until he ascended victoriously to his throne at God’s right hand. I know it feels like the game is still going on. It feels like the devil is racking up lots of points. But you can call the game. Jesus won! For you.
It doesn’t matter one bit when Satan knew it was over. Here’s what really matters: That you know it’s over! I know it looks like the darkness is winning—in the world and often in your own heart. But the battle is already won. Sure there is a little time left on the clock to be lived out. But the outcome is in no way in doubt. Jesus already lived for you. Jesus already died for you. Jesus already rose for you. When you see that baby—rejoice! Your Light has come. Your Life is here. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” There is your dagger!