Pastor's Corner: A Sober Christmas
[The woman] bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and to His throne. Rev. 12:5 (read v. 1-6)
This hardly seems like an account of the Christmas story. There is no mention of shepherds, angels, or anything that would inspire devoted renditions of "Silent Night". Thoughts of Santa Claus and Christmas trees are out of the question.
The "woman" of this text stands for the physical children of Abraham and all the believers of the Old Testament. Her honor and splendor are not her own, but something granted her from above, from God. She is seen in this light only by the eyes of faith. Otherwise, to the sinful world, she appears lowly and without honor. The true glory of the Old Testament Church, as with New Testament believers, is that she has the blessing of God's presence, despite her appearance.
Old Testament Israel was appointed by God to be the source of the Messiah. Generation followed generation, each expecting the fulfillment of God's promise to the patriarch Abraham that in him "all families of the earth would be blessed" (Gen. 12:3; Rom. 9:4,5).
In other words, Israel was set apart by God to be a special people (Ex. 19:5), to whom He would give His Word and the preaching of His prophets, and from whom the Seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15) would assume His human nature. All of this was confirmed by Jesus when He said, "Salvation is from the Jews" (Jn. 4:22).
History has shown that "the woman" and "her offspring" (v. 17, New Testament believers), suffer persecution just as "the Child" did during His earthly time. This opposition ultimately comes from that old "dragon", the devil, who opposes God's will at every turn. Although he cannot defeat God he thinks he can spoil the divine will by destroying the woman and the Seed of the woman. This Child, however, proves to rule with "a rod of iron" (Ps. 2:9). Many may oppose His rule, but none can stop His Gospel of forgiveness and the establishment of His Kingdom. He rules from on high, despite His apparent defeat on Good Friday.
Meanwhile, the people of God remain in the "wilderness" (v. 6) of thie fallen world, seemingly far from their true home in heaven, but sustained by the mercy and providence of a gracious Lord.
This Christmas story is not for the faint of heart, It is a very sober and realistic look at the dangers faced by the Church as it waits for God's incarnate Son to deliver His faithful people. Our hope is not in tinsel and sentimentality; it rests in the One who has assumed our flesh and blood, and who has risen victoriously for us from the grave. Only He can bring true peace upon the earth (Lk. 2:14), the peace of men reconciled with God by His blood and the victory of His life.