Christmas seems inevitably associated in our minds with small children, usually influenced as we are in the UK by pupils of primary school age ‘doing the Nativity’ in school plays. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and it is indeed wonderful to see the Christmas story re-enacted in this way, even if there is something faintly incongruous about the make-do costumes created from curtains and haloes made from tinsel. The buzz of excitement as children learn lines and sing songs; the many frustrations of teachers (captured in the film ‘Nativity’!) as they try to direct a production that has a role for everyone; the tear-jerking moments as the simplicity of the Christmas message is conveyed with innocence and faith are all wonderful to behold. I was fortunate to witness such a production yesterday: entitled ‘The Midwife Crisis‘, the play looked at the story from the perspective of a busy midwife trying to help at the birth of a king but being misguided enough to think that that would be at Bethlehem Palace, only to discover that there was no such place and the baby Jesus was born in a stable. As the midwife held the baby at the end, the play closed with the lines ‘I thought this baby needed me, but now I realise I need Him’ which conveyed the whole point of Christmas – our desperate need for a Saviour – so clearly.
Yet tucked away at the end of the Bible in Revelation 12, we see Christmas from a more cosmic perspective. Here, the main characters are a dragon, a woman and a child. I’ve never seen a Christmas production yet which featured the dragon!
Commentators generally believe the dragon represents Satan and this chapter shows the angelic battle to prevent the arrival of the Saviour on earth. Revelation is famous for its allegory and symbolic nature, but certainly, Christmas is a story played out on two levels: the natural and the supernatural; the visible and the invisible. Angels appear frequently in this story, appearing with dazzling brightness and ultimately bringing life-changing messages to people, be they Mary or Joseph, wise men or shepherds. The obscurity and the insignificance of the stable at Bethlehem are one obviously unexpected twist in the story, but Revelation 12 gives us a glimpse into the cosmic scale that is also involved. This plan of salvation would ruin the devil’s plans; the prophecy in Genesis 3 would be fulfilled; the serpent’s head would be crushed.
Our challenge is to integrate these two aspects of the story, to understand that our lives are not simply the random, insignificant event that we often see from the natural perspective but are part of God’s eternal plans. We were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world and are destined to be with Him for ever (see Eph 1.) May we grasp both the humility and grandeur of this Christmas story as we reflect on the birth of our wonderful Saviour!