Matthew and Luke tell us of the events around the actual birth of Jesus — shepherds on hill-sides, angels, starlight, wise men riding, Herod killing the boy babies, the Innkeeper and, of course, the manger.

I think of their Matthew’s and Luke’s descriptions of the birth of Christ as “Christmas Card theology.” Delicate, emotional, beautiful, petite descriptions — just right for decorating Christmas cards. If those beautiful pictures of the birth of Christ are as far as we go, then it is easy to keep Christ penned up between Thanks-giving and New Year!

In John’s Gospel, our perspective is broadened. He tells us that Jesus was in the Beginning...that everything was made by, for, and through Him. Here we also see the tragedy of Christmas: He came as a light in the darkness; He came unto His own, and His own received Him not!

Now see another account of Jesus’ birth, one you may never have noticed. Turn to the twelfth chapter of Revelation, a book written in the midst of a demonic and broken world in which only a minority believed in Jesus. It was written to a church facing persecution.

The author of Revelation tells of Jesus’ birth in verses 1-5. No shepherds dream here; no Wise Men march through this chapter; no Innkeeper offers even a stable for the Christ child. There is no light in the sky save the stars the dragon sweeps down. In Revelation we have the birth of Christ written in flaming scenes, with the whole sky as the stage.

What is the message of this Christmas story? Who is the woman in this picture? Who is the child? Who is the dragon? Are we in this story anywhere?

This Christmas story reminds us, in the first place, that God is faithful to His promises. Look at verses 1-5. The promises to David, to Abraham and to the prophets were not empty. The woman is, first of all, Old Testament Israel — the remnant; believing, faithful Israel. What a majestic figure she is!

Secondly, the birth of Jesus set in motion an unearthly struggle between God and Satan. See verses 3-5, 7-9. Even in the Christmas Card theology of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth we see, faintly, that hideous strength: there is no room in the inn and Herod tries to kill the babies.

But this writer says that out in the dark, just beyond the lamp-light of the stable, we can see — if we look closely — the blood-red eyes of the dragon. We can see the flickering tail that lashes down a third of the stars. We can see his heaving flanks and smell his foul breath... just beyond the circle of the light enveloping the manger. There’s more at the stable than “sweet little Jesus boy!”

Christmas thrusts us back to the reality of the devil, for the dragon at the stable is the devil. Look at verse 9 and see the names of the devil: the great dragon, the old serpent, the devil, satan, he who deceives the whole world. The old serpent lures us with lusts, he is the deceiver and the accuser, always looking for our flaw, our weakness. Hear the truth of the Christmas carol:

God rest ye merry, Gentlemen,

Let nothing you dismay,

For Christ our Saviour was born

on Christmas Day;

To save our souls from Satan’s power

when we had gone astray.

A final point: Christmas is not over yet. Look at verses 9-10, 17. We are a part of the Christmas story! He’s talkin’ about us!

When the dragon couldn’t kill the babe, he went after those he could reach—the child’s family, people, church. He thought he could still nullify the cross and the resurrection toward which the stable is moving. The babe grew up, and twisted the defeat of the cross into victory. It is summed up in chapter 11, verse 15: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.”

If only our meditation upon that verse could bring us to the state of George Frederick Handel whose Messiah, written in 23 days during which he scarcely ate or slept, ends gloriously on that verse. A servant reported he saw Handel on his knees, tears streaming down his face, and he said, “I did think I saw all heaven before me, and the great God Himself.”

May you see God this Christmas.

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