And So This Is Christmas
I truly love Christmas. I enjoy the lights, the trees, the smells, and of course the songs of Christmas. Most of all I love the reason for Christmas…the birth of Jesus Messiah. Within the Bible we have two infancy narratives (Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:1-10). Of course we could probably quote them from memory. In Matthew we have the famous “God with us” statement and in Luke you probably hear Linus’s voice “In those days a decree went out form Caesar Augustus…” as he is standing on the stage of Charlie Brown’s Christmas play. But have you ever thought about Revelation 12 as a Christmas story? How about an Apocalyptic Christmas?
Dr. Michael Bird writes,
It’s Christmas. So put up your nativity sets. Polish up your star of Bethlehem. Feed the donkeys. Put your plastic baby Jesus in the manger. I guess we should dress up as shepherds, wise men, and angels. Let’s do the nativity all over again as we do every year. Get some cute little girl to play Mary, hold hands with a cute little Joseph. Watch them bring frankincense, gold, and myrrh. We can sing “Little Drummer Boy” and “We Three Kings”. If we want to get theological we can argue about whether Jesus was born in a stable, a guest room with animals, or a cave. We all know the story.
But let me ask you this. What if we could do the nativity story written by Stephen King? What would it look like? Stephen King has written some pretty scary and graphic horror novels that could give any kid nightmares. What would the nativity look like if Stephen King wrote and directed it? Well picture this: A woman is in the final throes of child birth crying out in agony, her legs spread apart, ready to expel the baby from her loins. And, now it gets creepy, a dragon is there with her, poised, hungry, leaning over her, eagerly waiting to devour whatever is ejected from her birth canal. Sound disgusting. Well, this in fact is the nativity of John the Seer as found in Revelation 12! No mangers, no shining stars over Bethlehem, no drummer boy, no shepherds. Instead, a dragon waiting to kill and consume the Christ child. You see, for John the Seer, Christmas (the birth of Jesus) is not simply a positive message of hope, good will, and joy to all people. Christmas is about God’s plan to destroy evil, vanquish the devil, and the triumph of God’s people against their chief adversary. Christmas is not consumer Christianity for the masses. It is an apocalyptic drama of God’s plan to repossess the world for himself through the seed of Eve, the child of a Galilean maiden, the fruit of Israel’s own womb. It’s the Woman vs. the Dragon. It is the Church vs. Satan – that is why Jesus was born.
Different isn’t it? I would encourage you to read the entire post by clicking on the link. Dr. Bird makes a great point. The birth of Jesus is not like the birth of any child. Yes, Jesus was born in a humble way. But most importantly the birth of Jesus is the triumph over the Kingdom of Satan. We see in a small way the beginning defeat of the powers of darkness and we begin to see the Kingdom of God grow. In and through Jesus we see the Kingdom of God breaking into our present history. The Kingdom is not some far away distant Heaven in the sky. The Kingdom of God is the sovereign reign of God and it is experienced now in the present. Yet here we find the tension: The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan, two competing forces. Two empires fighting and warring.
Let me use an illustration:
For the New Testament, history is determined by two ages: this present evil age and the coming age of salvation.(See Matthew 12:32) Oscar Cullmann in his classic book, Christ and Time, shows us that this structure is not optional for understanding and retaining the biblical message. Illustrating the meaning of Jesus’ coming, Cullmann uses his classic example of the World War II distinction between “D-Day” and “V-Day.” When the allies established the Normandy beachhead on “D-Day,” the war in Europe was really won. Yet, “V-Day” remained in the future and the battle went on. Likewise, when Jesus came as God’s Messiah (Deliverer), it was “D-Day,” the beachhead of God’s kingdom was secured. It literally broke in upon us as the future became present. Nevertheless, we await its final consummation. When Jesus returns it will be “V-Day.” The Christian life is then lived in this tension between the kingdom come and coming.
At the birth of Jesus, the Kingdom of Satan lost but it still attempts to wage war against the messianic community. But we know that Jesus will return and finally destroy the powers of darkness. We are living between the times, or to say, living between two empires.
In short, the birth of Jesus was not simply the birth of a baby boy to a poor mother…although that’s true. The birth of Jesus was an overthrow of a tyrannical government. In and through Jesus the Kingdom of God has broken into the present earth changing the course of human history. The King has arrived. The drama is unfolding. Even when the dragon attempts to destroy the Church, he is stopped, dead in his tracks because the Kingdom of God is now and not yet. That’s the birth of Jesus, apocalyptic/Kingdom of God style, according to Revelation.