Summary: Four insights about Christmas from heaven’s perspective from the book of Revelation.
Note: This Sermon was introduced with a drama sketch called "Hung on a Tree"
Jesus doesn’t deserve to be hung on a tree. Truer words could not be spoken, that Jesus did not deserve to be hung on a wooden cross to suffer for the sins of the human race. Yet that’s exactly what happened, and in reality, that’s exactly what the Christmas story is a prelude to.
Yet that reality gets lost sometimes. The death of an innocent life to pay the penalty for our failures seems too negative an idea to think about during the festive holiday season. Instead we focus our attention on spending money to stimulate our economy, singing familiar Christmas carols, and enjoying time with friends and family. That’s what Christmas looks like through our eyes.
But what does Christmas look like through heaven’s eyes? If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you’ve heard the Christmas story told from a variety of perspectives. You’ve heard the story told from the perspective of Mary. You’ve heard it retold from the perspective of Joseph, then from the perspective of the shepherds, and perhaps from the perspective of the Innkeeper who didn’t have room for Jesus. On Monday night at our two community outreach services we’ll be looking at Christmas from the perspective of the wise men. I’ve even heard the Christmas story retold from the perspective of the animals in the stable.
But what if we could look at the birth of Jesus from the perspective of heaven? Would what we see be any different than what we see through our own eyes? Would we still emphasize the same things about Christmas if we could see it through heaven’s eyes?
Well fortunately we don’t have to guess, because the Bible itself presents us with a picture of Christmas through heaven’s eyes. This picture isn’t found in the traditional Christmas story as it’s recorded in the New Testament books of Matthew or Luke. It’s not even found in the more overtly theological retelling of the story in the book of John. This retelling of the birth of Jesus is found, in all places, in the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. Today we’re going to look at Christmas through heaven’s eyes, and we’re going to find four insights about Christmas that we often neglect in our own celebration of the Christmas story.
Let me start by describing the book of Revelation for a minute. The book of Revelation is an written description of a vision that the apostle John experienced while he was in exile on the Island of Patmos. John was one of Jesus’ followers, and he personally witnessed most of Christ’s miracles, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. John emerged as a leader in the early church, especially among the churches in Asia Minor, which is in modern day Turkey. John was sent into exile for his commitment to Jesus when a horrible outbreak of violence erupted against the Christian faith. The Roman government decided to try to exterminate the Christian faith, and one way to do that was to get rid of the Christian leaders. So John finds himself on a small Island off the coast of modern-day Turkey, totally isolated from other Christians. While the people John was called to pastor suffer and die at the hands of government persecution, John is helpless, powerless to do anything to help. One day while in prayer, John experiences an incredible vision of Jesus Christ--a revelation of Jesus--and in that vision John sees heaven open.
One of the major purposes of this vision is to help us see suffering and pain from heaven’s perspective. The vision recounted in the book of Revelation also sheds light on the future, as it uses symbols, images and visions to describe the end of human history and the future second coming of Jesus Christ.
In chapter 12 of Revelation, we experience a heavenly flashback to the first Christmas. This flashback looks back at the birth of Jesus, which probably occurred about eighty years before John had this vision. This flashback lifts the curtain and shows John-and us-what the first Christmas looked like from heaven’s perspective.
Now let’s look at the vv. 1-5. There’s lots of symbolism and imagery here, but I don’t want to get too caught up in the details, lest we miss the big picture. So I’m going to just focus on the major aspects of this vision, so we can see Christmas through heaven’s eyes.
We’re introduced to a WOMAN clothed with the sun. Exactly who this woman is has been debated by Christians for generations. Some identify this woman as Eve, the mother of the human race. Others identify this woman as the nation of Israel. The crown of twelve stars would then stand for the twelve tribes of Israel, and the focus would be on God using the nation of Israel to bring his son into the world. Still others see the woman as Mary, since she’s the one who was actually pregnant and gave birth to Jesus. I’m not sure we have to decide exactly who this woman represents since the visions in Revelation often have multiple points of reference.