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The Christmas Story involving a seven-headed dragon and woman giving birth in the book of Revelation

Op-ed
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When most Christians gather to remember the Christmas story — the story of the incarnate God being born as the person of Jesus — they open the scriptures to the Gospel of Luke or Gospel of Matthew.

But did you know the book of Revelation also tells the Christmas story? That's right.

Revelation 12 opens in dramatic fashion. A woman — wearing the sun, moon, and 12 stars (a clear reference to the 12 tribes of Israel, the covenant people of God) — in labor pangs. Across from her stands a seven-headed red dragon that is prepared to eat her newborn child. But the dragon fails. When the child is born — importantly, a male — he is immediately taken up "to God and to his throne," where he "will rule all the nations with an iron scepter," an allusion to Psalm 2:7-9.

What do the main images represent?

While people disagree about the meaning of the symbols in this vision of John, the author of Revelation, New Testament scholar G.K. Beale suggests the woman represents "the community of faith within which the messianic line ultimately yielded a kingly offspring." Thus, like Israel, the woman is also described as being persecuted, fleeing into the wilderness, having more children, who are described as faithful to God.

On the other hand, Beale associates the dragon with the corrupt and evil kingdoms of the world (like Egypt and Rome in John's day, the first century CE) that oppress and persecute the people of God, and the chief representative of evil, the "devil."

But what does this mean?

Although the story of this dragon in John's vision continues on, the good news of the Christmas story is found in Revelation 12:5: the woman's child was born and he rules as king at the right hand of God.

This is a message about Jesus.

In fact, it's the gospel of Jesus. While the covenant people of God face persecution and oppression in the face of evil and corrupt powers, God has proven faithful, and at the end of history, the dragon will be slain forever. At that time, all things will be made new, and the covenant people of God, those who are "in Christ," will be transformed and made new, living with God in perfect harmony in the New Heavens and New Earth for eternity (Revelation 21–22).

With this picture in mind, I encourage you to reflect on the Magnificat, otherwise known as "Mary's Song" in Luke 1:46-55.

“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

The Christ has been born — and he is raised! Immanuel! Merry Christmas!

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