Christmas was God's D-Day invasion, Heaven’s shot across Hell's bow warning the wicked of the ages that the beginning of their end had started with the birth of a baby.
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year because it's chock full of warm fuzzies: shepherds and wise men and angel choruses, Mary and Joseph and the baby "Away in a Manger", no room in the inn and no room for extra pie because we've overstuffed ourselves again with Christmas dinner. Gifts and trees and lights and concerts and little boys in bathrobes and Santa with his sleigh. Joy to the world, the Lord has come! And with Him presents and cool music and an official government holiday! If that's how you view Christmas, I want you to hear the rest of the story.
The real Christmas story isn't just about light and joy and angels. It's about darkness and battles and devils. It's not just a pastoral story of an idyllic birth; it's a bellicose story of attempted infanticide. It's not just "Love Story" and "You've Got Mail" and “Emma”. It's "Braveheart" and "Indiana Jones" and “Spiderman”. It's not just Luke 2; it's Revelation 12--the Christmas story as seen from Heaven's perspective:
Rev. 12:1-2 A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.
The "woman" represents the nation of Israel with twelve tribes (stars), called out by God to reflect His glory to the nations (sun and moon under feet). Through Israel, a child is about to be born! And not just any child. In Genesis 3:15, God had predicted at the beginning of time that through the woman the serpent had deceived would come a child who would crush the serpent's head. Israel was God's chosen people through whom this child would come. Now, though Israel had been disobedient and was painfully suffering the oppression of Rome, God still was graciously sending Christ.
Rev. 12:3-4 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.
Wait a sec. I knew cows and sheep witnessed Christ's birth. Maybe even a little drummer boy and a dog or two. But an "enormous red dragon" was also there, ravenously hungry, afflicted with halitosis and deeply enraged. Verse 9 identifies this dragon as Satan, the ancient serpent himself who was evicted from Heaven with a third of the angels, wrecked Paradise, devastated creation, and breached man's relationship with God. Through the various dynasties of history (7 heads/crowns) and supported by the power of godless nations (horns), he had continued his assault on God's kingdom and people. Now he had evil intent towards the Bethlehem babe! Satan wanted Jesus dead.
Rev. 12:5-6 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
It seems that Satan missed his meal. Unable to destroy Jesus at birth or the church that He founded and raptured to heaven, he turns his wrath again to Israel only to be thwarted once again by God in the last half of the Tribulation. John's vision reveals the no-holds-barred, high-stakes war that has raged in Heaven since Satan defected. Not to understand the despair of the world under Satan's tyrannical thumb is to misunderstand God's ruthlessness in reclaiming His kingdom.
Some people, not comprehending the seriousness of evil, take issue with God for the boldness of His rescue plan in choosing Israel, giving them already-occupied land, and trusting them with the burden of suffering the onslaughts of evil through the pogroms and holocausts of history. "Why couldn't God just reason with Satan, you know, work something out for peace?" That's like those who say we should reason with Vladimir Putin and seek to understand him instead of bringing him to justice. Folks, here we learn that in the cause of righteousness, unilateral action may be politically incorrect, but appropriate. When it comes to evil, being nice is a vice. God loved us too much to tiptoe around Hell’s feelings.
Though there's much mystery here, two facts we clearly understand. 1) The war on Satan that God had declared in Genesis 3:15 to crush the serpent and restore paradise to His people was heating up. 2) The birth of Jesus centered that war on the earth.
Come to think of it, maybe “the great company of the heavenly host” that sang “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men” (Luke 2.14) was present that night not to give a concert, but to do battle. God knew what Mary and Joseph didn't know: a malevolent entity was coiled to strike the baby that Mary was to name "Savior". The angels weren't there to sing, but to fight. They weren't strumming harps; they were packing heat. And they did their job well, because the dragon missed his prey. Was the angel chorus heard by shepherds just a Christmas carol? I doubt it. I think it was the shout of victory! C.S. Lewis tells what they truly celebrated that night:
“Enemy-occupied territory--that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. God has landed on this enemy-occupied world in human form” (C.S. Lewis).Christmas, in other words, was God's D-Day invasion, Heaven’s shot across Hell's bow warning the wicked of the ages that the beginning of their end had started with the birth of a baby. No wonder they wanted Jesus dead! To evil, Jesus Christ was the most dangerous baby ever born. Let's look closer at the reasons why. . .
First off, Jesus was a saboteur against tyranny. Augustus Caesar was turning 60 the year Jesus was born. He was Rome's Emperor, worshipped as divine for bringing Pax Romana from Gibraltar to Jerusalem and from Britain to the Black Sea. He ruled a Kingdom of absolute power and gave peace only to the submissive. This guy lifts his little finger in Rome and 1500 miles away a young couple in an obscure province are forced on an arduous journey. Locally, the Augustus lackey was King Herod, a murderous Jew who had traded decency for dominion.
Both were tyrants, and as such they represent tyranny through the ages--the dark human urge to acquire power and use it to enslave other humans. The names and faces have changed. But the tyranny hasn't. Communism, fascism, socialism; Hitler, Stalin, Ho Chi Min; Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Robert Mugabe, the Taliban, Vladimir Putin. The history of man is the history of Herod and Augustus. It is a history of tyranny.
But with all of his considerable might, Augustus did not know that God would use him like a pawn to fulfill the divine plan. Micah 5.2 was God's promise that the savior would be born in Bethlehem, and it was the proud emperor's decree that forced the prophecy's fulfillment. In Bethlehem then would be born a baby more dangerous to his empire than Augustus could ever know. As the wise man had prophesied. . .
Luke 2:34-35 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. . . "
King Herod, on the other hand, caught wind of the coming King from the wise men. He crudely did what all tyrants do when their hegemony is threatened. He gave the order to exterminate a generation of Jewish male children. But thankfully, God had warned Joseph in a dream and, for a time, Jesus was safe in Egypt. And so the battle raged. Where Christianity took root, culture changed and freedom flourished. Tyranny cannot thrive where Christ liberates. Instead, democracy trumps the divine right of kings and basic human rights are recognized. From the Magna Carta in England's Middle Ages to the constitution of the United States of America, truly free societies have been undergirded by Christian principles. Is it any wonder that ancient and modern tyrants since Christ have always sought as the first order of business to eradicate the Church so they could enslave the masses? That's because Christ came to proclaim freedom, and those who hate freedom hate Christ!
Secondly, Jesus Christ was the most dangerous baby ever born because He was a saboteur against Satan. Some think sin is fun and the devil is a cool personality. I once had a guy tell me he didn’t want to go to Heaven. He’d rather be in Hell partying with his friends. How deceived to think Satan is willing to give human beings any good thing! Jesus said,
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. . .
Just know this about Satan. He doesn't love any person. He doesn't even like us. In fact, he hates us all with visceral, venomous antipathy. And he's strong enough to make us hurt if we give him a chance. If you have anything worthwhile, he wants to steal it. If you've made anything beautiful, he wants to destroy it. If you've started anything that's doing good, he wants to kill it. He just loves to enslave people through evil. Jesus said he is a thief with violence on his mind:
John 10:10a The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. . .
But Jesus came to proclaim freedom from guilt and fear, from hatred and hopelessness, from pride and purposelessness. He came to free us from despair and give us abundant life. He came to thwart the dragon:
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Jesus saw that the human race needed help, and that He was the only One Who could give it. Saving our lives for time and eternity was worth Him giving His own. As Paul the Apostle would later write:
Gal. 1:3-5 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
And so, friends, Christmas is when the most dangerous baby faced danger to set us free. He is the long-expected rescuer who landed on this earth in deep cover to spring His people from the slavery of tyranny and evil. Rejoice that, though He was the most dangerous baby ever born, He was dangerous only to the dangerous. Hell trembled on that first Christmas as the Dragon crouched and desperately tried to nix God's redemptive plan. He failed. Nevertheless, the battle yet rages for a time. But no sweat. The outcome is not in question. The cross and the resurrection guarantee the apostle's confidant words: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. . .” (Rom. 16:20).
Joy to the world! The Lord has come! Let earth receive her king! And dragon, eat your heart out.
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