Friday, January 13, 2017

the flip side (part 1)

(written by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Revelation 12:1-9
Today's passage is going to be a final look back at Christmas, which may seem strange, because many of us have never connected Revelation with our traditional understanding of Christmas.
Now, when I say traditional understanding I mean what I usually see in Christmas plays, nativity scenes, and in Christmas cards . That 1st Christmas is portrayed as something very simple, very safe and very comfortable. Best summed up in the classic hymn- “Away In The Manger.”
Away in a manger, no crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head
The stars in the bright sky
looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus Asleep on the hay ....
.... The cattle are lowing the poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes
Now I don’t want to belittle this hymn, but it is what it is, a children’s song. We have an edited version of Christmas designed for children. You get the picture that everything is clean, neat and beautiful, and that even the animals are singing in unison. But this Christmas carol lacks some of the hard truths. That very first Christmas was not very simple, safe nor comfortable. Consider the following:
• The very long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem (80+ miles) while very much pregnant
• The lack of any decent place to deliver a baby.
• The agony & mess that is child birth.
• Then being forced to spend the night with the disgusting mess that comes with housing animals.
For most of our Christmas cards and nativity scenes, that 1st Christmas is based more on that hymn than on the reality behind the Christmas event. It is important to move beyond romantic and childish understanding of that 1st Christmas and the incarnation of Jesus Christ in general.
But even beyond that scene in Bethlehem, we need to recognize that there is more going on that night than just the interaction of the nativity scene. In today's passage, we have a wholly different picture that is painted surrounding this event. I have yet to see a nativity scene or a Christmas card that depicts this version of Christmas. (Maybe I ought to use the picture above next year and see what kind of reaction I get.)
What clearly emerges from these 1st 6 verses is kind of the cosmic view of Christmas. There is no manger, shepherds or even Bethlehem. Instead, we have three main characters:
1. The Child- Represents Jesus Christ Himself- (This is undeniable because it quotes Psalm 2 to talk about the ruler of all the nations.)
2. The Dragon- Represents Satan- who tries to devour Jesus. From King Herod onward, there have been many who seek to destroy the Anointed One.
3. The Woman- Represents the Nation Israel (generally) and Mary (specifically)- who gives birth to Jesus. Remember that Joseph was warned in a dream about Herod’s intentions to kill Jesus, and they fled into Egypt (the desert).
This passage changes our view & shouts out the reality of the unseen world. We live in an age that denies the supernatural. We are skeptical about stuff we can’t explain. We always look for the human explanation to the various situations and circumstances we face. To some degree this is okay. We don’t want to get ridiculous and believe that every time something bad happens the devil was behind it. That’s foolishness.
But we American Christians have gone so far in the other direction that we think and live our lives all too often as though this world is all that there is. The Bible speaks otherwise. It lets us know in no uncertain terms that there is much more to reality than what we can see, taste, touch and hear. In fact, the unseen world is actually the more permanent part of reality. This planet, our physical bodies, and all our material possessions are fading and will eventually be destroyed, but the eternal will remain.
Remember, the stable, the manger, and all the physical objects of that original Christmas are now long gone. The shepherds, magi, King Herod, and even Mary & Joseph have since passed on. But that night began the greatest counter-insurgency ever in the spiritual realm and we still feel the consequences to this day. So remember and celebrate that 1st Christmas, certainly. But never forget the enormous repercussions of that event- most of which could not be seen by human eyes. "Therefore, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (1)
(1) 2 Corinthians 4:18

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