Saturday, December 20, 2008

revelation 12/the other christmas story

There is another Christmas story that we don't hear of during the season, at least very rarely, and its recorded in Revelation 12.

"Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days" (Revelation 12:1-6).

There is this parallel history kind of thing, and while we reflect on shepherds, a mad king and a manger scene, this story in Revelation shows whats going on in the heavens. Even before Jesus was born, Satan was plotting to kill Him. The Incarnation was a tremendous blow to Satan and his forces, who continued to pursue Jesus, until through the sacrifice of His life on the cross, He won the ultimate battle and brought to completion the reconciliation of God and man. The war is raging on, with Satan and his angels cast to the earth where they continue to display their wrath against the Body of Christ ... us.

John's preface to his gospel holds that when the Word became flesh, many didn't recognize it. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, but it didn't know him. He came to his own, and they didn't acknowledge or receive him. But some did. Christmas has to do with seeing the signs, with recognition, with discerning God's presence in the world. I believe the peace of the Christmas story is one of God's gifts to us, a gift that reveals to us the victory of God in the midst of terrible strife.

At every turn the story in Revelation 12 seems an absurd mismatch: a woman and a dragon, a babe and the kings of this world, a messiah and the power of death. But that is precisely the method that God has chosen in the incarnation. If we look closely, we will see that there are two levels or fronts to the Christmas story: one of peace and the other of war. The truth is, God has been active in the history of man, and He will be active in our lives forever; regardless of what the enemy tries to do, He will prevail. Isn't it a strange thought that what happens our our tiny planet, perhaps even our own actions, echos in the heavens?

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