Summary: Like the white witch of Narnia, Satan works at deceiving God’s people. Revelation 12 shows us the Christmas nativity "behind" the one we usually see.
THE ENEMY OF CHRISTMAS.
Narnia Image: The White Witch who makes it always winter and never Christmas.
Theme: There is real evil in the world. Revelation opens the curtains of heaven and we see it in personal form. This evil wreaks havoc on our world and lives.
Subject: Why does the church suffer and what shall we do about it? How shall it respond?
Complement: The church’s fight against oppression is part of an age-long struggle between God and Satan. It calls for faith and endurance (even to death)
Do you have in mind: an image of the way Christmas is “supposed to be?” Maybe it’s a quiet night snuggling by fire with your one and only. Your children are quietly tucked in bed.
Maybe your ideal Christmas is a grand feast, a festive dinner gathering: fine wine and succulent lamb or deserts, all savored with a few close friends or treasured family members—all the kids come home or you’ve gone home and everyone’s together.
Maybe your ideal Christmas is putting aside accumulating and instead focusing on sharing. Your ideal Christmas is to spend time with folks for whom life is more of a struggle. Folks whose families are split, folks who are homeless.
Maybe your ideal Christmas includes a worship service filled with your favorite music and a sermon/environment shaped by biblical images, phrases you’ve heard so often they’ve seeped into the deepest part of your psyche/heart: Maybe some Old Testament: “A virgin shall conceive and give birth to child and she will call his name Immanuel…” And New Testament: “And there were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night….”
When I was a child my ideal Christmas included a visit “downtown.” It was a special trip for us children because we didn’t go downtown very often. When we arrived, the whole downtown was aglow. A big central park had giant, lit candy canes over the sidewalks. One corner of the park had big gigantic glowing Frosty! To a child it looked three stories high. Another corner had Santa’s sleigh and reindeer—big brown ones, the kind a child could touch and sit on. My favorite corner was the corner with the giant “nativity.” It had a rough wooden exterior that felt like a barn. Straw was strewn about. A life-size Joseph and Mary and Magi a bit further off. Maybe a nativity scene is part of your ideal (traditional) Christmas.
This morning we want to add another picture to your ideal Christmas. My hunch is you won’t like it. (at first). It’s like someone altering your favorite painting or radio channel—turning the dial. But I ask you to consider it, because we cannot understand Christmas without it. In fact, all your Christmases will be hollow, phony, sentimental, empty without this picture of Christmas to add to the “traditional” nativity scene.
You might get nostalgic or sentimental or cozy with Matthew. You might get commercial with Luke (lighted angels and plastic shepherds). But John takes you to another world. He makes explicit what is implicit in the other gospel stories. He takes us “behind the scenes” to Jesus being born in a manger attended by shepherds and shows us heaven’s version, put the baby Jesus in heaven attacked by a dragon. Our stories/response to the Nativity cannot be reduced to shutting the door against a wintry world, drinking hot chocolate and singing carols. John offers another Nativity story, a story we need—to understand Christmas. To understand our world. To understand the church. To understand our trouble (protect you from evil). To understand or destiny/future
Read text: 12:1-17
The first person in this heavenly nativity scene is a woman-radiant, beautiful. She is, “Clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet (sign of royalty, etc). Wreath of stars—victorious.
This is quite a different nativity. During this message series we’ve talked about apocalyptic literature. Everyone who reads this book of the 66 in the bible agrees it is a wildly different kind of book. This sort of writing (apocalyptic) was common in 200 years before to 200 years after Jesus. As you can see, it’s rich with imagination and images. During that 400 year span dozens of such pieces were written. But none like this. Unique combination of letter to specific people—7 churches in Asia Minor and prophecy—quoting and re-quoting the Old Testament prophets and Apocalyptic style.
“Revelation” can be confusing. Folks argue over the meaning of sections, but everyone agrees on some things, like this one: the radiant, amazing woman represents God’s people. This woman is a picture of the church, the (Is 50:1; 54:1) chosen people of God. On earth the church appears clumsy, backward, embarrassing, insignificant—a target of scorn and ridicule—but St. John shows us how the church looks to heaven: spectacular, stunning, dignified, noble.