When people set up their Christmas nativity scene or crèche, they don’t usually have a dragon among the animals. Yet the Bible tells us of a dragon that sought to ruin Christmas and our future. One verse you’ll probably never see on a Christmas card is found in Revelation 12:4, “And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born”. You can see why this doesn’t fit our Christmas narrative. No woolly sheep, no angel choirs and no innkeeper. It’s hardly a feel-good statement.
The first few verses in Revelation 12 recall the Christmas nativity from a very different perspective. A woman is pregnant and ready to give birth to a child. A dragon appears with seven heads and ten horns ready to destroy this child as soon as he is born. Who is this child? The “one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” (12:5) The child is protected, caught up to God and his throne. This is a one sentence summary of the birth, life and ascension into heaven of Jesus Christ.
It’s not your typical retelling about shepherds and kindly wise men. In John’s vision, the immediate result of Christ’s birth is a war across the heavens. (12:7) The great dragon called Satan is defeated and falls from the sky.
This is an account of Christmas we would prefer to ignore. It’s a cosmic war that rages and we are part of it. As God prepared to step into this world to save us, the enemy pulled out all the stops to prevent it. And he continues to do so today. He now fights against God’s people.
We live in the middle of a cosmic drama than no television show or movie could accurately portray. Here and there we see the invisible breaking into the visible. The current crisis in the Middle East, among other places, is evidence of unseen battles in the heavens.
Why does God reveal this picture to John and to us? Is it to frighten us? To cause us fear and anxiety? No. It’s to bring us comfort and strength. The child is safe and the dragon is defeated. God is victorious. Yes, this drama is still playing out. Perhaps we are near its conclusion. But we know how it ends and this brings us the comfort and joy that Christmas is all about. We have a saviour and he will put all things right again.