Here is the last telling of the Christmas story in the Bible. It comes to us in Revelation 12:1-6. I believe we find a secret message encoded there. It is a message of Christ’s love….
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 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 desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
You may well wonder what in the world this Scripture has to do with Christmas. If you will be patient, I think you soon shall see.
As with the rest of the book of Revelation, so with this vision of the Apostle John, it carries a secret message encoded in symbols. And to understand the symbols you have to decode them to get the message. The first symbol we see here is that of a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. This woman is pregnant and she gives birth to a male child.
Who is this woman? The imagery calls to mind Joseph’s dream in Genesis 37:9-10 where he dreams of the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowing down to him. The sun represents his mother, the moon his father, and the eleven stars his brothers. The twelve stars, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, tip us off to the fact that this woman in Revelation 12 is Israel.
The male child she gives birth to is the Messiah. “She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” This is a quote from the messianic prophecy in Psalm 2:9. The image of Israel giving birth to the Messiah is common in the Old Testament. We see it in Isaiah 54:1-4, Isaiah 66:7-13, and Micah 5:3. Mary, of course, is the member of the Jewish community who gives birth directly to the Messiah. This retelling of the Christmas story shows us that Christ’s quiet birth in the little town of Bethlehem has cosmic significance.
More tomorrow on this fascinating passage of Scripture....