Things you won’t hear at church at Christmas #1 “Santa doesn’t exist” – no minister wants to risk a mass exodus of families with young children.
Things you won’t hear at church at Christmas #2 “For today’s festive reading turn to Revelation chapter 12” – which is a shame, for it is a great passage about the birth of Jesus.
Whoah. Hold up and rewind there. The birth of Jesus. In Revelation? Yup, you read that correctly. In amongst all the stuff about the end of the world and all that horsemen of the apocalypse stuff we find a passage about the birth of Jesus, told from a heavenly perspective.
“Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and she cried out because of her labour pains and the agony of giving birth.
Then I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth. He stood in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born.
She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where God had prepared a place to care for her for 1,260 days.
Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels….. And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.” Revelation 12:1-9, 17
We tend to think of the birth of Jesus as this peaceful event, as shown on Christmas cards and sung about in carols with lyrics such as “Silent night, holy night, all is calm”. But in this passage we see that that was not the case. All was not calm. In the heavenly realms all hell was breaking loose. Jesus coming down to earth was an invasion behind the lines of Enemy territory. Philip Yancey calls it “a daring raid by the ruler of the forces of good into the universe’s seat of evil.” And Satan wasn’t going down without a fight. But here is the awesome thing – the angels fought back, and completely kicked his devil butt. When you see angels on Christmas cards you don’t usually think of them as being much use in a fight. At nativity plays they are usually played by young girls. But when you look at the Bible, they are dragon-beaters. And they are on our side, looking out for us, they are “spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation.” (Hebrews 1:14).
At Christmas we are reminded of the good news that though we are in a spiritual battle right now, with Satan trying to bring us down. But we are not alone. God himself became man and moved into our neighbourhood, entering the scene to defeat the power of death, to offer hope to all mankind. And right now the angelic host of heaven is not just singing “Hark” but is fighting dragons for us. There is a war going on, centred on the Nativity scene, but we are not fighting alone. Merry Christmas!