The Untold Christmas Story

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun  By William Blake, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1070031

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun By William Blake, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1070031

Grace, peace, and mercy to you from God the Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I am betting that many of you have nativity scenes in your house. Nativity scenes are one of my favorites. They convey the hope and love of God. Everything is picturesque. Mary and Joseph hovering over the manger looking down in awe at the new born Lord. Shepherds and angels gathered in the background. Sheep, donkeys, and oxen quietly grazing on the hay. To the east are the wise men, making their way first to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem. It is peaceful and quiet. And, right in the middle of it all a giant red dragon looking to kill the baby Jesus.

Oh, do you not have a red dragon in your nativity scene? Wondering what the heck I am talking about. Let me show you the birth of Christ from the spiritual realm.

12 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… 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.
— Revelation 12:1-5, 7-9

Dr. Louis Brighton tells us in his commentary on Revelation that the events described here by John “are cosmic in character because the actions depicted occur both above and on the earth. For what is portrayed before the eyes of John is nothing less than the cosmic war between God and the prince of darkness.”[1]

Christmas is not just a day to dream of snow, sip coco, and open presents. It is June 6, 1944 only on the largest scale imaginable. It is an invasion. The Christ-child breaks into our earthly realm, heaven and earth meet in Him. He comes to bring salvation.

The Devil cannot stand idly by He has made great claims about himself. He has seven heads, 10 horns, and 7 diadems. 

The number seven is God’s number, in particular symbolizing the sevenfold presence of Yahweh though his Holy Spirit…the dragon’s seven heads reflect his deceptive claim that he, and not the Christ, is the spirit who has all knowledge to supervise all earthly matters. Each head is crowned with a diadem reflecting his deceptive claim that he possesses all royalty and lordship. The ten horns point to the boastful claim that the dragon has supreme earthly power…By such an appearance the dragon boasts that he has all wisdom and all power over all the peoples and kingdoms on earth. [2]
The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun  By William Blake, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=147895

The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun By William Blake, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=147895

This, of course, is all a lie. And he is exposed as such when he is cast down from heaven. The entire birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus is compressed to one clause: “but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.” Because the focus is not on that, but on the outcome. In the Gospels (including John’s) we hear how Christ came to earth. How he sparred with Satan, overcoming temptation, casting out demons, freeing the oppressed and healing the sick, making clean the unclean, even bringing back people from the bonds of death. Until the Devil believes that he has won at Christ’s execution on the cross. Instead, his decisive victory becomes his ultimate defeat. Christ shatters the bonds of death and rises victorious. The dragon is exposed as an utter fraud. Christ, the child that the dragon waited to destroy, is victorious. He establishes peace between God and man.

The warfare in heaven must be interpreted as a spiritual struggle in which the dragon attempts to displace the Christ Child, the victorious Lamb who was slain, in order to establish himself again in the presence of God as the prince of the angels and as the one who has dominion over humanity on earth, and specifically as the one who has the authority to stand before God and accuse people for their sins.

At the center of this warfare in heaven is Satan’s ability to stand in God’s holy presence and accuse the saints of God (Rev. 12:10). It is a war, so to speak, of words – the words with which Satan accused God’s saints of their sins (e.g. Job 1-2; Zech 3:1-5). With these words Satan claimed that he, not the Christ, truthfully represented the saints before God’s heavenly throne. This warfare, though of words, is deadly serious, for if Satan’s accusations were validated in the heavenly court, then God’s justice would require him to deny even his own people because of their sin. But for that to happen God would have to deny the claim of his own Son to be the rightful representative and advocate for God’s people. Christ’s victory has earned for him the right to represent fallen humanity; he is the one ‘who loves us and set us free from our sins by his blood’ (Rev 1:5). Therefore the accusations of Satan are thrown out of court, and Satan himself is thrown out of heaven (12:8-10). [3]

All that starts right here. All that is why we gather together and remember the birth of Christ. Right here starts the forgiveness of your sins. Right here starts your hope. Right here is your God in the flesh of a child. He came to take away our sins. He came to give us the peace the surpasses all understanding.

And so we sing: Silent night, holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light / Radiant beams from Thy holy face / With the dawn of redeeming grace, / Jesus, Lord at Thy birth / Jesus, Lord at Thy birth. Amen.

And may the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds this Christmas season. Amen.

[1] Louis A. Brighton, Revelation, Concordia Commentary (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House, 1999), 325.

[2] Ibid, 328-329.

[3] Ibid, 333.