One place we don’t often look for images of Christmas is the book of Revelation. But one of the most graphic representations of Christmas – one you will never see in any nativity scene – is right there, in chapter 12.
But perhaps it should be in every nativity scene, because it graphically represents what was really going on, on that wondrous night in Bethlehem.
In the image-laden words of John, here is how I understand the vivid pictures: the woman of v. 1 is the people of God, Israel, headed by the 12 patriarchs – the twelve stars of her crown. And from “her” one woman – Mary – would give birth to a boy, a Prince of Peace, the Davidic King promised in Psalm 2, who would rule the nations with a rod of iron (Rev. 12:5 – see also Rev. 2:27).
Along the way there were many “birth pains” (v. 2) – from sin, and corruption, from discipline and deportation to Babylon . . . but finally, the “woman” gives birth to the man who would deliver her.
But the old dragon, who had caused the original fall in the Garden, could not abide this. And so he and his helpers did all that they could to “devour” this baby. He was waiting there, on that night in Bethlehem, because he had been waiting, in fear and loathing, all along.
And on another dark day, on a hill outside Jerusalem, he thought he had the Man. He had Him right where he wanted Him. Dying, nailed to a Roman cross, put to open, utter shame. And then He spent His final breaths pushing out the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And then, “It is finished.” The Lion of Judah turned out to be just a docile Lamb.
The old dragon thought that he had won – that he had finally, successfully captured and “devoured” that Christmas baby (v. 4).
But it was not to be. For three days later, the woman’s child was raised up from the dead. The “it” of “It is finished” did not refer to the child, but to the dragon! And to the death that he longed to share with the woman! The Lion won by becoming the Lamb!
The text gives us three further points, that I trust will encourage you this season:
- The woman, we the church, is “clothed with the sun” – v. 1. John’s vision pictures her not as she is now, but as she/we will be: clothed in blazing glory, in the glory of the grace of God in Christ. We are not what we are, but we will be.
- Jesus is not just raised to God, but also “to his throne” – v. 5. He is Lord, over all, not the dragon. The dragon still hunts the “woman”, but he does so on a leash. This town is infinitely massive, but it still only has one Sheriff.
- And though we sojourn now “in the wilderness”, v. 6, our place is determined and “prepared by God”. And in this place, in the church, in the Word, in prayer, and in our fellowship together, He nourishes us. And He will nourish us, until the war is over.
Therefore, Christmas is a call to us, to set again our faith, on these facts. That God did not just come as an idea, but as a man, to fight our fight, on our soil, in our place. Christmas was not just a beautiful event. It was a cosmic beachhead, in a bloody war, with everything on the line – you, me, everything. God came for us, leaving nothing to chance. But he came like us, to get us, so that he could die, FOR us, so that he could deliver us, from our greatest enemies.
Christmas was the beachhead in a great battle. And as with WWII, while we give thanks for D-Day, it reminds us that there is still much fighting left to get to Berlin. But your battles today are by no means pointless. They are part of a greater, cosmic battle. And V-E Day is assured, when our “1,260 days” will be over. On that day, the victory celebrations will be glorious. Because on that day, we will be robed, in the white-hot glory of the Son.