I have many plans for posting about Christmas songs this month, and I’m excited to get started on this theme. I plan to include several new songs as well my favorite renditions of old ones, so keep an eye out for Truth In Tunes this month. My hope is that it enhances your worship of our “New Born King” this Christmas season.
Dustin Kensrue is best known for leading worship at Mars Hill Orange County and writing songs for the hard rock, Christian band Thrice. His solo efforts are a rare gem of gritty, Springstein-esque folk rock that plays into the theme of this song perfectly.
“This Is War” doesn’t sound like a very good Christmas song title. And when you here it (if you haven’t already) it won’t include the usual harmonies, bells and chorale background that you might be accustomed to. However, it is one of my favorite Christmas songs of all time because it captures the essence of why this holiday means something.
Christmas always feels like a warm, cozy event – once you get past the crazy shopping/travel secularization part. That is a tall order in and of itself; but, even then the picture is of a quiet, solemn gathering with loved ones where candles, hot drinks, gifts and laughter hopefully abound. You’re probably doing really well if you get this far. So, then if you include a Christmas devotional time with the retelling of the story of sweet baby Jesus arriving on a Silent Night by humble means, then Christmas is truly a success, right? Well, all of this is well and good (trust me, I try to include all of the above), BUT it leaves out one loud, crucial element: the abrupt, in-your-face assault by God in the epic campaign against Satan and sin.
This is the only Christmas song that I know which attempts to deliver a gloves-off version of this important Christmas truth (please tell me if you know about others!). God coming to earth as a man was the war strategy that the devil could not possibly counter or prevail against. He tried, but failed! For Jesus came with truth and grace – the two weapons in the ultimate spiritual warfare of salvation history that could not be defended against. It’s ironic and beautifully holy to see this weapon of war clothed as a soft infant born to peasants in a small hick town. But do not underestimate what this event really meant and probably felt like to the enemy of God. For Jesus’ birth was the all-time game-changer that rewrote the world’s entire destiny.
Having said all of that to set up this song and these lyrics, consider letting this anthem become a regular part of your holiday listening experience – because it is, after all, our victory cry and the pivotal core of the what Christmas is worth to all who believe:
This is war like you ain’t seen.
This winter’s long, it’s cold and mean.
With hangdog hearts we stood condemned,
But the tide turns now at Bethlehem.
This is war and born tonight,
The Word as flesh, the Lord of Light,
The Son of God, the low-born king;
Who demons fear, of whom angels sing.
This is war on sin and death;
The dark will take it’s final breath.
It shakes the earth, confounds all plans;
The mystery of God as man.
It’s probably not as eloquent and rich as other carols, but that’s because its a soldier’s song. Simple, accurate, bottom line truth – in a tune that reflects the spirit of an everyday, common man’s theology. The Gospel is born and charged with energy through this song in a way that I hope kindles your fire well beyond holiday sentiment. God came to us as a man – and by that act declared all out war against sin and death and Satan – so that we could be rescued and join the battle as God’s warriors.
Life is full of moments where we are still and calm, so as to reflect on truth and beauty. Christmas is certainly a good time for these things. Life also provides moments that call our guts to well up and roar against the forces of evil. Christmas fits within these moments, too. Christ gave up everything for us to be able to have confidence within these moments, knowing that the battle has already been won by Him. Live life like the Baby is your War Hero and Victor. This is December…and this is war!