Friday, 23 December 2016

The Dragon and the Child: A Christmas Story

I recently stumbled across a blog post which on the surface seemed a little surprising. When sharing a Christmas reflection I usually default to Luke who tells the story of Shepherds being greeted by a choir of angels heralding the birth of Christ. On occasion I'll look to John and his reflections on the Word putting on flesh and pitching his tent alongside us. But never in my life had I used the cosmic imagery of an enormous red dragon waiting to devour a child that can be found in Revelation 12.

And yet, this is a Christmas Story and it goes like this:

'A pregnant woman is about to give birth. Standing in front of her readying himself to devour the about-to-be-born child is a giant, red dragon with seven heads and ten horns.

The child is born. He is one who will rule the nations. But before the dragon can devour the child, the child is snatched up to heaven.

And then an epic battle erupts in Heaven. Michael and his angels fight against the dragon and his cronies. But the dragon is defeated and hurled from Heaven. And as the ensuing song of victory declares, the dragon has been defeated by the Blood of the Lamb.'

Revelation is written in an apocalyptic genre. It uses fantastical symbols and images to retell stories. The closest parallel I can think in more recent literature is the way C.S. Lewis uses strange characters and events to retell the gospel story in his Chronicles of Narnia. Revelation draws richly upon Old Testament symbols and 1st Century Greco-Roman images to retell the story of Israel, Jesus and the church.

Here in Revelation 12, John is retelling the Christ story. It draws out images and meaning we don't tend to correlate with the Nativity Scene. When thinking of Christmas we think of peace, singing, joy, a baby in a manger surrounded by smelly animals, shepherds and wise people.

And yet Revelation 12 draws out other aspects of the Christmas story. Namely that in the birth of Christ, God is invading the world. He's choosing to go to war against the dragon who is the picture of evil in all it's hideous strength.

Enough is enough and the havoc the dragon has wreaked--injustice, brokenness, hatred, fear, loneliness, violence--will be ended, and the Prince of Peace will reign throughout the world.

So while the Christmas story is a story about a defenseless child who is the hope of the world, it's also a story about a summons to battle, a grand strategy to defeat evil which culminates with this little child living amongst us, being crucified and rising again to life on the third day.

While Christ has won the victory, the battle still rages. We see the dragon rearing his ugly head in all kinds of ways. But let us also remember this Christmas, that when God invaded the world on that starry day in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, he called us to join with him to continue fighting the good fight. While we still see brokenness and evil, death and violence, we know that ultimately the victory has been won because Christ is with us.

Hallelujah and glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace because the Saviour is born this night.