Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Revelation's view of the first Christmas

Revelation 12:1-2  A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.

Who Knew?  Christmas is spoken of in the Book of Revelation
When you think of Christmas, your thoughts may turn to the accounts written at the beginning of Matthew and Luke - and certainly those records are the primary sources from which we understand that first Christmas.  Or perhaps you may think of the prophecies and promises of Christmas from the Old Testament - some of which we have explored already in this blog over the past couple of weeks.  But what about the last book of the Bible?  The Book of Revelation? 

Amazingly we find not only what was going on in the angelic realm the night of Christ's birth, but we also get a front row seat to the whole of human history from creation until Christ's return.  In three episodes John relates the vision of what went on in the heavenly realms on the night of Christ's birth (Revelation 12:1-2); followed by a second episode detailing the rebellious career of Satan from creation  until Christ's return (Revelation 12:3-6).  The third episode is a more detailed revelation that helps the reader fit together the information from the first two episodes. (Revelation 12:7-16). 

Episode 1: How much was riding on the night Christ was born
In the opening verse John sees his first vision: a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet and twelve stars.  As we survey scripture, we quickly find out that these are various descriptions of the nation of Israel it has existed throughout history.  Being uniquely called by God through the bloodlines of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 12; 15; 17; Deuteronomy 7:7-8), Israel above all other nations was chosen to be the recipient of His law and promises. (Romans 9:1-3)  The idea of "a woman" is ultimately referring to Mary herself - since the prophecies concerning the virgin birth of the Messiah culminate in her. (Isaiah 7:14)

The twelve stars are in reference to the twelve tribes of Israel.  We see twelve stars referring to the twelve patriarchs from whence these twelve tribes would derive in the dream of Joseph about his brothers in Genesis 37.  The moon, being a reflector of light, shows us another apsect of Israel - she was to reflect the glory of God to the nations.  Clearly God is rehearsing to the readers of John's book that it was through Israel that He would bring forth the Savior.

So with the entire history of man and Israel pivoting upon the birth of the Savior that Christmas night, we see Mary crying out in the pain of labor.  As much as Jesus Christ was God in human flesh, as much as his birth was unique in being a virgin birth, the remaining details of the birth remind us that what took place that Christmas night was real. 

What John will reveal next tells us that more was going on than meets the eye.  As much as this was a physical birth, what was occuring in the heavenly realms the night of Christ's birth would reveal just how much this one night would forever change the landscape of both history and eternity.  More to come. 

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