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Monday, December 29, 2008

The Unseen Christmas

We are all familiar with the story of Christmas.  Mary and Joseph were forced to make the journey to Bethlehem just about the time she was to deliver.  When they arrived, they discovered that there was no room in the inn so they were forced to bed down in a stable with the animals.  Jesus was born there that night and wrapped in cloths and laid in a manger.  The star appeared and the the angels announced the birth.  The shepherds and the wise men.  I'm sure that it wasn't all perfect, but it all seems so peaceful.  O little town of Bethlehem.  It is something we have heard and seen acted out many times. 

But did you know that in the same way as there is an unseen story that is part of our lives each and every day, there was an unseen Christmas story in the spiritual realm as well?  There was an intense spiritual battle going on, on the night that our Savior was born.  It was even more important than the natural events that played out.  All of hell was marshalled against this momentous and prophesied birth.  With graphic imagery, Revelation 12 records:

"A great and wondrous sign appeared in heaven:  a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.  She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.  Then another sign appeared in heaven:  an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads.  His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.  The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.  She gave birth to a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter" (Revelation 12:1-5).

That puts an altogether different slant on the birth of Jesus.  A child being born.  Mary crying out in the pains of childbirth.  And a dragon standing right there waiting and wanting to devour this child of promise the moment that it was born.  And with him a third of the stars a reference to the proportion of angels that fell with Lucifer.  That looks a lot different from the peaceful little stable that most of us put on display.  And, were it not for the protection of God, assuredly, this birth would never have taken place.  The plan of God would have been thwarted even before or certainly as soon as it began. 

Revelation 12 says that the child born was taken up to God and his throne and the woman fled to a place prepared for her by God in the desert.  God was overseeing and guaranteeing all of the events of that night and those that followed.  In the natural realm, King Herod, using the wise men, tried to kill the child, but God led them to Egypt, and kept them safe.  There were battles going on in the natural and the spirit realm.  Revelation 12 continues:

"And there was war in heaven.  Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.  But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.  The great dragon was hurled down that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to earth, and his angels with him" (Revelation 12:7-9).

We know the story.  Satan made war against Jesus his whole life.  Eventually there was a cross and a tomb.  But then, there was also a resurrection!  There was war.  But the verdict with respect to Satan and his demons was and always is that they were not strong enough!  Still, he continues to fight.  He lost the war with Jesus.  But, in his rage, he "went off to make war against the rest of her offspring those who obey God's commandments and hold on to the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 12:17).  Revelation 12:12 says that though Jesus was victorious,  we still need to be on guard:

"But woe to the earth and to the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."

There was an unseen Christmas story that played out in the spirit realm.  Would Mary and Jesus have ever survived that night without the help of God and his warring angels?  No way!  And we too are in a battle ever since.  We are the rest of her offspring against which the great red dragon hurls his fury.  But Jesus won and so can we!  We have won already.  Satan is opposed to the birth and life of every child of God ever.  But he is not strong enough and has lost his place in heaven.  We have simply to stand in the victory that is ours. 

"Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.  For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before God day and night, has been hurled down.  They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12:10-11). 

There was definitely an unseen Christmas.  But it was even more glorious in its effect that the one that we usually celebrate.  There was a war.  There was a victory.  Jesus won!  And it was that victory that the angels proclaimed when they sang so long ago, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men" (Luke 2:14).  The peace of Christmas comes because of the victory in the unseen realm.  And the peace of God comes to you and I today because of victory in our unseen realm too!