13 Dec A Not-So-Silent Night: Behind the Scenes at Christmas Time
It’s mid-December and by now you will have heard the carol “Silent Night” as you’ve wandered through the shops or joined in at a Carols event. It’s a beautiful song, made all the more magical when sung in the stillness of a starry evening. We’ve been singing this song for a while now. The music goes back to the early 1800s when a pastor was walking to his home in a tiny Austrian village on Christmas Eve. Inspired by the glow of yellow lights and snow-lined rooftops, he penned the words that would be sung in his church the next day and later spread throughout the world to become one of the great Christmas classics.
Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright.
They’re beautiful lyrics, but they don’t quite capture the events we celebrate each December. Chapter 12 of the book of Revelation gives us a very different version when it takes us behind the scenes to the spiritual realm. Instead of the serene glow of a holy family, we see an enemy symbolised as a red seven-headed dragon. Rather than a baby sleeping in heavenly peace, we see a vicious attack on a pregnant woman as she cries out in her pain. There are no glories streaming as war breaks out in the heavenlies and the powers of evil seek to destroy God’s plan (Revelation 12:1-9).
The familiar scene of a baby in a manger was not so “tender and mild” when you consider what God was doing. The birth of Jesus was God’s sovereign hand breaking into the human kingdom; a divinely orchestrated strategy sent to destroy the forces of evil that reigned over the world.
It’s not surprising then that this move of God would see some pushback in the earthly realm. It’s not unusual that the coming of a newborn son would motivate a power-hungry king to initiate a bloodbath of baby boys (Matthew 2:13-18) and a scheme to destroy royal convoys to the scene (Matthew 2:12). The enemy was not going to let go without a fight.
But the book of Revelation also points to the end of the story. At the close of the scene, we see God’s protection of the new mother symbolised in the provision of eagle wings and a timely earthquake (Rev. 12:14-16) – a victory that is reflected in the escape of Jesus’ family to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-14). The plan of God continues as the baby in the manger grows up, begins his ministry and ultimately fulfils his mission on the cross.
Christmas shows us that in God’s kingdom, things were always going to be done differently. God’s methods upturn the ways of evil in unexpected ways. Instead of a king comes a baby. Instead of a lion comes a lamb. Evil is destroyed – not by human violence – but by spiritual authority. This authority comes packaged as humility, sacrifice and love. That’s why on this not-so-silent-night, together with the heavenly hosts, we can sing ‘Hallelujah.’