Christmas a Time for Reflection
Christmas is one of those times every year where many people pause to reflect on faith and their relationship with God. It’s tradition in many homes to stop and read the Christmas story on Christmas Eve night, to attend a Christmas Eve service, or to decorate with a nativity scene. This special time of year, gathering with family to celebrate the birth of Jesus, invites reflection.
But what exactly are we celebrating when we celebrate the birth of Jesus? Of course, we are celebrating that God gave us His only Son. We are celebrating the entrance of God as man into the world. But there is even more to it than that. Christmas isn’t just about a birthday party for baby Jesus. It’s also a time to take a look at all that Jesus’ coming meant.
What was it that caused the angels to sing and brought the wise man from so far? What was it that scared King Herod so badly? And what was it that caused the heavens to thunder in spiritual warfare?
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What happened in the heavens on Christmas night
If you’re looking for an in-depth account of the Jesus’ birth in the physical realm, I recommend reading Luke 1-2. The first two chapters of the gospel of Luke are dedicated to the full account of Jesus’ birth as it happened here on earth. It includes events leading up to and following the birth of Jesus.
However, what we are going to look at today is an account of the birth of Jesus in the spiritual realm. And for that, we turn to Revelation chapter 12.
Fasten your seatbelts.
A great 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 its heads. Its 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 it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
Then war broke out 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 the earth, and his angels with him.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.”
When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.Revelation 12:1-17
That’s a lot, I know. But encompassed in these 17 verses is a full overview of what’s been going on in the spiritual realm since the birth of Jesus through today and will continue to go on until the end times.
Let’s break it down together. This is the true story of Christmas and the spiritual warfare that was launched that sacred night.
Revelation 12:1 opens with “A great sign…in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” This woman is generally believed to represent Israel with it’s 12 tribes.
At the start of the chapter, the woman is pregnant and in pain, representative of the time leading up to the first coming of Messiah. In the four centuries leading up to the birth of Jesus, since the time of the prophet Malachi, there had been silence from Heaven. The Israelite people yearned for signs and for prophecies to be spoken or fulfilled, but none came. Furthermore, the Israelites had come under Roman rule and were being greatly oppressed. They were in pain and agony awaiting the promised Messiah.
As could be imagined, the dragon introduced to us in verse three of Revelation 12 represents Satan. The heads, horns, and crowns are speculated to represent different things, but the most widely accepted view is that these represent his power over the kingdoms of the world. Meanwhile, it is believed that the stars swept out of the sky are a depiction of fallen angels who chose to follow Satan rather than God and were cast out from Heaven and God’s presence along with Satan.
As we enter into the second half of verse 4, the woman is preparing to give birth, and the dragon waits in front of her “so that he might devour her child the moment he was born.” The child is then instead swept up to Heaven to the throne of God. This child is Jesus. And the moment of birth displayed here is indeed a picture of what was happening spiritually as Christ was born. Satan sat in waiting to stop the coming of Messiah, but even he could not stop God’s divine plan for salvation.
The birth of Jesus set into motion a divine battle in the heavenlies. As angels sang God’s praises and announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds (Luke 2:13-14), heaven and hell broke into full on warfare. We see this warfare in full force immediately in the physical realm as Herod calls for the killing of all boys in Bethlehem under the age of 2 as a result of what the wise men told him about the coming of the King of the Jews (see Matthew 2 for the full account). And this warfare continues on throughout the life of Jesus as He begins to bring God’s full plan into motion, casting out demons, healing, and restoring people to relationship with God through forgiveness. All this ultimately culminates in the battle next mentioned in Revelation 12.
The Battle and the Victory
The major battle depicted in verses 7-9 is a picture of the battles waging throughout Jesus’ ministry but primarily at His death and resurrection. In the three days between Jesus’ death and resurrection, war waged on in the heavens. Indeed, hell likely thought it was winning. But on that third day when Jesus rose, we read the powerful words: “But he [the dragon] was not strong enough…”
Satan and his angels were hurled down to earth from where they fought in the heavens, their ultimate fate sealed in the resurrection of Jesus.
The Dragon’s Rage-filled Pursuit
Revelation 12:12 tells us that Satan is “filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” But with that time since Jesus’ resurrection continuing through today, he has not been idle. Instead, “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Verses 13-17 of Revelation 12 show Satan’s continued pursuit after God’s children, first the Jew then the Gentile believers. The final verse says profoundly, “the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring – those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.”
Ever wonder why we face spiritual warfare? The answer is in those verses. Satan knows he has been defeated, and in his rage, he continues to pursue, to persecute, the Jews as well as Christians throughout the world even at the same time that he is at work to prevent the Kingdom of God from growing.
Still, we can rejoice. As verse 12 tells us, even Satan knows his time is short. God has won the victory already!!
What we gained at Jesus’ birth
Revelation 12:10-12 speaks perhaps the loudest volumes of the significance of Christ’s birth. Upon victory over death, at Jesus’ resurrection, a loud voice in heaven proclaims:
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Messiah…They triumphed over him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore, rejoice you heavens…”
This is the gospel message.
Jesus Messiah through his birth, ministry, death, and resurrection fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17). In doing so, He brought first salvation and then Holy Spirit power to all who put their faith in Him.
The heavens roared in warfare on Christmas night because the coming of Jesus meant the following for you and me:
Jesus rescued us from eternal separation from Himself. He rescued us from the grave by standing in our place as the perfect sacrificial Lamb. He wiped our sins clean and marked our case “paid in full.” And all this comes not at any effort from ourselves. Instead, in taking away our sins and fulfilling the Law, Jesus removed the need for us to fulfill the laws. He made faith in Him the only criteria for salvation.
In John 5:24 Jesus Himself says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my words and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life.”
Restored Relationship with God
With the initial sin in the Garden of Eden, humankind lost its privilege of direct relationship with God. Yes, we see men and women with strong relationships with God throughout the Old Testament. But the catch was that every sin brought separation. This separation could only be made right again through sacrifices. Furthermore, the sacrifices, in accordance with the Mosaic Law, could only be brought by certain designated authorities.
At Jesus’ death, the veil of the temple that separated the everyday people from the presence of God in the holy of holies was torn in two (Mark 15:38). At that moment, because Jesus became the ultimate sacrificial Lamb paying for our sins, all who believe in Him were restored to right relationship with God.
No longer are we separated with each and every sin. Instead, we have full access to the Father through Jesus. He has restored us to Himself. He has redeemed us completely. We can now go “boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
In addition to salvation and a restored relationship with God, Jesus brought freedom to all who believe in Him. Freedom from what exactly? Freedom from slavery to sin and the flesh, freedom from the heavy burden of the Law, freedom from bondages and strongholds.
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Galatians 5:1 tells us “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” We are fully free in Christ! We are free to live in wholeness and newness of life. No longer are we shackled by the weight of the world, sin, and strongholds. We are set free to walk in full freedom! There is nothing to be done to reconcile ourselves. Jesus has done all that. Once we believe, all that’s left to do is walk in freedom!
The Holy Spirit
A fourth gift Jesus brought to us was the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells the disciples in John chapter 16 that it is better for Him to go away and send the Holy Spirit than it would be for Jesus Himself to remain on earth. The Holy Spirit acts as Comforter, Counselor, Sanctifier, and Guide. It is through the Holy Spirit that we have power and authority to bring God’s Kingdom to earth.
Along with the Holy Spirit comes the fruit of the Spirit as well as the gifts of the Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are unable in our own power to live full of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Likewise, we cannot in our own strength manifest the gifts of teaching, preaching, prophecy, mercy, discernment, wisdom, and so on (read about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12). We need the Holy Spirit to walk in these things. He is our Helper and our Guide as we navigate day to day life. Without the birth of Jesus, we never would have gained access to this Ever-Present Help.
Life to the Full
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” are the words of Jesus in John 10:10 when speaking about what He came to bring to those who have faith in Him. This is such a beautiful picture of the heart of the Father. He not only came to save us eternally; He came to save us right now! We no longer have to live as the world lives – stressed, worried, fearful. Instead, we can live life abundantly. He came so we can live life full of joy, peace, and purpose. He delivered to us life as it was truly meant to be lived!
In Him, we can walk through each day unburdened. We don’t have to fear because we know Who holds our future. We can let go of the past and live in the present moment because He has redeemed us. Through Him, we have complete victory. Even when things are difficult, we have the privilege to maintain our hope because we know the battle is won!
It is from a place of knowing that we have been redeemed, God is in control, He is good, He is faithful, and He is love that we can live life to the full, resting completely in His perfect presence.
The Power of Christmas
Of course, we could go on and on about all Jesus made available to us when He came to the earth. But this list gives us a good taste and reminds us of why we celebrate.
Christmas wasn’t just some gentle, quiet night. It sparked heavenly warfare and brought about our complete redemption through Jesus Christ. The coming of Messiah meant the coming of victory over sin and death forever.
Christmas is such a wonderful time to celebrate joy, peace, and goodness in the earth.
It’s also an opportunity to remember the hard-fought battle for our lives and reflect on all God gave us. It’s a chance to rejoice in how deeply He loves us that He would go to such great lengths to restore us to Himself.
Christmas is a victory cry. Sin and death are defeated, and we have been set free in Jesus Name.