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The Other Side of Christmas

01.07.19
by Kevin; missionary to Uruguay
in Church Planting, Devotional, Missionaries
"The suffering of the church in the world is not a sign of Satan’s victory. It is a sign of his realization of defeat."

     As I sat in church on Sunday, a wave of anxiety washed over me as I learned it was December 16, “What happened to December?” I wondered. I honestly thought it was the beginning of the month….it really doesn’t “feel” like Christmas. Psychologically and emotionally for me, there should be snow on the ground and family nearby at Christmas.
     Prior to moving to Uruguay, I never expected to find my cultural expectations of Christmas to be so confronted with reality as they are now. While it can be uncomfortable, I’m glad to be confronted though, it forces me to refocus on the true meaning of it all. Expectations are funny in that they engage our imaginations and shape how we think, act and feel. When it comes to Christmas, one of the things that mold our imaginations are the carols we’ve come to know (hearing the mention snow in Christmas carols being played in the malls here is comical). We immediately envision a peaceful pastoral scene of shepherds watching over their sheep under the cover of darkness and stars twinkling overhead or the serenity of Jesus snuggled up in a manger sleeping peacefully as we sing “Silent Night, Holy Night.
     As I write, there is a family back home who’s idea of Christmas is forever changed through tragic loss. How are we to look at Christmas when the situations around us are marked with more chaos than order? We like sticking to the Matthew 2 and Luke 2 versions of Christmas of shepherds, an angelic choir bursting on the
scene and the star leading the Magi to Bethlehem at the expense of forgetting the other side of Christmas found in Revelation 12. There is no singing of “Glory to God in the Highest” here! There are no Christmas carols but cosmic conflict!
     John sees a sign of a woman clothed with sun and the moon under her feet and wearing a crown of twelve stars about to give birth. He then sees another sign, this time it’s a terrible picture of a violent and imposing beast of seven headed red dragon. His sole intention is to destroy and kill the child for this is no ordinary child… this child is Jesus, for He is the One who has come to rule with a rod of iron (vs. 5). Jesus’ birth excites more than wonder, it excites evil and war is waged in Heaven! Archangel Michael and his angels fight valiantly to defeat their foe. Six times John writes that the dragon, who is the devil, has been thrown down. It’s as if John wants us understand this is good news!
     If this is good news, why are things so bad? Why is the gospel so opposed? Why is ministry really hard and even frustrating sometimes? Why is there striving? What happened to “Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men?” Short answer: the dragon is a sore loser. The dragon knows the gospel, he knows his time is short
and in his desperation, he unleashes what evil he has left.
     The suffering of the church in the world is not a sign of Satan’s victory. It is a sign of his realization of defeat. The dragon knows that the King of Kings is no longer a baby tucked “Away in a Manger, no crib for His bed,” the King of Kings is on the throne! And since he cannot get to the One on the throne, the dragon goes after what is dearest to Him. He goes after the woman (12:13), and after the people of God (12:17) in three ways.
     First, John calls the dragon the accuser of the brothers and sisters (12:10). Day and night, the dragon makes accusations and slanders God’s people. Second, John says the dragon is the “deceiver of the whole world” (12:9). To get caught up in playing games with the truth is to get caught up in the dragon’s game. Third, John says the dragon seeks to kill. That is why he is red, the color of blood. The writer of
Hebrews says that the evil one keeps people under his thumb through the fear of death (Heb. 2:15). If we fear dying for our faith, we’ll be tempted to compromise.
So how do we stand? Yes, the war has been won but since the enemy will not surrender we find ourselves in battle. John says: “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death (12:11).”
     The blood of the Lamb covers our sin, pays the penalty for our sin, and cleanses us from our sin. Paul asks in Romans 8, “Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” We also overcome the dragon by seeking with our whole being to know the truth, speak the truth, walk in truth and (12:11) and persevere in truth (12:17). This means that the battle is fought not only on big issues, but in the little things too.
     However we view Bethlehem, niceness is not the point. In Jesus, God came face to face with the evil one and won by dying on the cross and rising up again. And we too find victory when joined with Christ. Martin Luther put it well in his hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God - “And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us. We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him, his rage we can endure. For lo, his doom is sure: One little word shall fell him.” That word is Jesus, who is Immanuel - God with us!

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