You mean you never heard the story of the red, seven-headed Christmas Dragon? You know, the one so powerful that its tale swept billions of stars from the sky and flung them to earth in a fury. That’s the dragon that showed up Christmas morning, determined to kill the baby boy destined to rule the nations as soon as it was born.
Right. That dragon!
Somehow that story doesn’t make it into many Christmas pageants. And you probably haven’t heard any Christmas carols about the dragon because only a heavy metal version would do.
Revelation 12 tells a side of Christmas that is far from the cute animals, the shepherds on hillsides, and the three wise men we are so familiar with. Here is a tale of conflict on a cosmic scale. The mother is clothed with the sun, stands on the moon, and wears a crown of twelve stars. The dragon is ready to destroy a third of the galaxy if that’s what it takes. In one of the most horrific images found in Scripture, this dragon waits ravenously just as the cosmic mother is about to give birth. No, not your typical Christmas story.
there are angels, but this is not a heavenly choir with harps and flowing robes. These spiritual beings came armed for war, doing battle with that ancient serpent, throwing him and all his minions to earth in violent defeat.
The author of Revelation uses such language not to give us details like a journalist but to give us a sense of truth that is beyond description. Revelation, as with other Biblical literature like that found in the prophets, is
characterized by vivid–what some would consider wild–imagery and dramatic metaphor. Dragons and other fantastic beasts, for example, often make prominent appearances. The purpose of such imagery is to break us out of our limited, human perspective that mere propositions and direct, literal speech cannot achieve. By touching our emotions and imaginations, these writings move us to see God and his work in the world in fuller, deeper ways. The prophets do not want us to get lost in intellectual analysis of the details of their visions but to be profoundly transformed by the overall effect that their writings create. They want to touch the heart, not just the mind. (Mark Through Old Testament Eyes, p. 233)
While we have a story in Bethlehem of promise and hope for each of us, it is even bigger than that. As Phillip Yancey puts it, Christmas is “far more than the birth of a baby; it’s an invasion.” It is a story of God bringing cosmic defeat upon the forces of evil, the power of the devil, and the gates of hell. It brings not only our salvation but peace on earth, hope for an abused planet, and reconciliation among enemies, divided families, nations, and ethnic groups. In Christ we have a foretaste of the life and light he has secured not just for us but for his whole creation.
With power and might “he comes to make his blessings flow as far the curse is found.” That is why we sing joy to the world.
Image: St. Michael’s Victory over the Devil, Jacob Epstein