The “Other” Christmas Story
Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is all about? …asks a frustrated Charlie Brown.
Sure, I can tell you what Christmas is all about, replies Linus, who proceeds with a monologue.
Charles Schultz, a Christian, wanted to let people know the real meaning of Christmas and used his character Linus to recite the account that’s recorded in the Gospel of Luke. It’s beautifully narrated and gives you a sense of peace. Matthew 2 also provides an account of the first Christmas.
However there is another birth narrative that’s unfamiliar to most and is anything but peaceful. It’s recorded by John in the book of Revelation, chapter 12. It begins with a woman who gives birth to the Messiah. Instead of depicting Mary, the mother of Jesus, she represents the true Israel, or the faithful people of God.
1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet (a picture of dominion) and a crown of twelve stars on her head. (could refer to the 12 patriarchs of Israel or the 12 apostles) 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. (cp Isaiah 26:17, 66:7)
Herod tries to kill the child who was born “king of the Jews”, whereas John sees a dragon seeking to ambush the delivery. Like Herod, the dragon is unsuccessful.
The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”
The child is none other than Jesus. The dragon is later on identified as Satan. Without mentioning any aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry, or his death and resurrection, John moves directly to his ascension.
And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.6 The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
This is as close to Silent Night as we get. However it is not about baby Jesus. It is about his followers, who escape to the wilderness.
We tend to interpret the wilderness as a dry, fruitless, arduous experience. It is the place where Jesus was tempted by the devil. However, Jewish people see the wilderness as a place of provision and protection; dependence and intimacy with God. (Exodus 16:4ff, Hosea 2:14)
For people in Revelation, their 1260 day season in the wilderness was a spiritual refuge that would enable them to stand firm against the devil.
Although there is widespread persecution of Christians throughout the world today, we are still in the wilderness. And the worst is yet to come. Spawned by a cosmic battle, the dragon’s fury is yet to be unleashed. It involves deceit and arrogance, world domination, even supernatural signs and wonders. This Leviathan has one aim – to eradicate the world of Christ-followers.
7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.
The middle verses contain a burst of praise, including a saying that is often quoted by believers today.
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;
We tend to exclude the remaining part of v 11: they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. 12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”
What is the “other” Christmas story? Here’s the abridged version:
- Christ was born, died, rose,
- Satan wanted to snatch the infant Jesus, but failed.
- Jesus ascended to heaven and is seated on the throne.
- Satan and his cohorts fought and lost a cosmic battle in heaven.
- They were thrown down to earth, where they not only wreak havoc by inflicting pain and suffering, but by breeding hatred, violence, evil and every kind of anti-Christ “ism” imaginable.
- Knowing their days are numbered, the satanic trinity – dragon, and the two beasts are focused on the death and defeat of the woman’s offspring – faithful followers of Jesus.
The early church experienced widespread persecution. Many were martyred for refusing to bow down to the Roman emperor who demanded to be worshipped as god.
Since the ascension of Jesus, we as Christ-followers in America have been in the wilderness. We have enjoyed provision, and protection, and intimate fellowship with God. The separation of Church and state is still in tact. At some point in the future, I believe things will change. In the meantime, use this time to be strengthened for the assault that is yet to come. Discipline your heart, mind and soul to withstand the persecution to be unleashed.
In the end, Satan is vanquished forever. Until then, Be strong the the Lord and in the power of his might. (Ephesians 6)