The true and accurate Christmas story isn’t the serene manger scene with the nice shepherds and the friendly barnyard animals surrounding a sleeping baby Jesus with one big star in the sky and three wise men looking on.
No. That’s not how it happened at all.
I’ve never heard the true Christmas story in a Sunday sermon, or in a Christmas Eve service. It’s too controversial. And violent.
The true Christmas story is found in the Bible, of course. But not where we expect to find it. The Bible works that way sometimes.
To find the real story of Jesus’ birth, we must read Revelation 12. Yes, a chapter in the last book of the Bible, a vision that God gave to the apostle John.
The vision is very real. It takes place in the spiritual dimension – which we ignore at our own peril.
Here we go.
“A great portent (omen) appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth.”
Here is the mother of Jesus, bright and beautiful, ready to give birth.
“Then another portent appeared in heaven: a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems (crowns) on his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.”
This great red dragon is Satan – he will be named in a minute – and he’s in attack mode.
“Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born.”
Why? What’s going on?
Satan had rebelled against the living God, hoping to overthrow him one day. But he knew that once this child was born and grew to adulthood, his days would be numbered.
God was declaring war on Satan with the birth of this child.
“And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days.”
As soon as the male child was born, God protected the baby from the red dragon. The new mother fled to a place of protection as well, but a different place – in the wilderness, for 1,260 days, or 42 months, or 3.5 years.
I can’t say what the specific meaning of that number is, except that it also is mentioned in the chapters before and after this one. In Revelation 13, the red dragon is allowed to exercise authority on earth for 42 months.
Are we living in this time period now? I think we are.
“And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
Not exactly a silent night, is it? The multitude of heavenly host that freaked out the shepherds when Jesus was born in Bethlehem were praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14)
And for those whom he does not favor …
I do not want to be on the wrong side of this battle, on the side of the red dragon.
This revelation is frightening. And encouraging.
Satan was defeated and cast out of heaven; the battle between God’s angels and Satan continues on earth, even today. A glance at the nightly news reveals this war being waged on numerous fronts.
Yes, today’s news events are spiritual battles. There’s no doubt about it.
How is this encouraging? For two reasons that I see:
- Satan is not God’s equal. He is a fallen angel, on the same level as Michael. God is much stronger than the Devil is. We cannot forget this.
- The red dragon was given authority on earth for 42 months, or 3.5 years. This means his time here will end at some point. Satan knows his reign is finite; that’s why he’s stepping up the pressure, making the battles increasingly intense, to take as many of us with him to hell as he can.
Back to the Revelation vision:
“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, ‘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 comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God …’ ”
Jesus is born. The battle ensues.
Next, the apostle John describes what will happen to us:
“… Rejoice, then, you heavens and those who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
When the dragon saw that he could not kill the child – Jesus is protected by God’s throne, and the dragon was cast out of heaven – he went after the child’s mother:
“So when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.”
When Satan realized he couldn’t reach Jesus’ mother either, he turned on us:
“Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.”
Do you wonder why God allows evil in the world? It’s because of Christmas.
God declared war on Satan with the birth of Jesus. Satan is returning fire. But only for a time.
Don’t be surprised. This is the way God planned it. The red dragon is having his moment now. But his clock is ticking.