A Cosmic View of Bethlehem
One of my favorite traditions at MBBC is our Christmas Eve candlelight worship service. Every year as we listen to the birth narrative from Luke 2, scenes of the living nativity play in my head as I attempt to fathom what it must have been like that night in Bethlehem so long ago. While the Gospel stories of Jesus’ birth are a regular part of our Advent readings, this chapter from Revelation likely is not. However, this passage is a sort of cosmic view of Christ’s life and holds value for us as we reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
The pregnant woman in this passage is not the virgin Mary, but the faithful Israelites who have waited so long for their Messiah. Before the child is even born, a ferocious dragon waits to devour Him. This evil creature is certainly representative of Satan. Indeed, Satan did stand ready in an attempt to destroy Jesus. However, the efforts of evil are futile; the child is caught up to Heaven (Revelation 12:5). While Jesus’ life on earth lasted over three decades, here we see it portrayed as a brief moment before the Ascension.
The woman then flees for protection. She continues to represent the people of God, and we see that God cares for her, just as He cares for us (Revelation 12:6). The chapter concludes with a heavenly war. But just as the Christ child was triumphant immediately, this war is really nothing to God. The victory is His with no equal effort. Satan and his demons are defeated unequivocally. Battle gives way to rejoicing! God’s people have been victorious by the blood of the Lamb. This story gives us a cosmic view of Christ’s life and triumph, a grander picture than just the manger. Perhaps it might even find its place in your family’s Christmas Eve traditions!
Revelation 12 (ESV):
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And 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. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
13 And 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. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.