Sermon Text – Revelation 12
THE WELCOMING PARTY
Having heard the Christmas story many times, it stirs up familiar images in our mind’s eye. The Lord Jesus is welcomed into the world by his mother and father. A young couple, just getting started, stare down at the baby boy wrapped in swaddling clothes. They smile with delight and have all of the normal reactions that come with being a first time parent, “He has your nose. Look at all that hair.” But in addition to the delight one experiences in taking the child in, finally being able to see after nine months what this kid looks like, they have other thoughts to contend with, thoughts that none of us as parents have ever had to deal with, thoughts like, “What is to become of this child? I hold the messiah in my hands. I am a virgin mother. The angel said to me, ‘He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ And it is my job to raise Him. God help me.”
SATAN’S PLAN THWARTED
First, regarding the derailment of Satan’s plan, we must ask, “Who is this regal woman, clothed with the sun, standing atop the moon, with a crown of twelve stars?” Like so many other images in the book of Revelation, this is a reference to an Old Testament passage. In Genesis 37, Joseph fell asleep, enveloped in the multi-colored cloak made special for him by his father Israel. He dreams of the sun, the moon, and eleven stars all bowing to him in reverence. The dream was prophetic, foretelling of a time when his mother and father, and his eleven brothers would all bow down to him. So on the surface, this woman would appear to represent the nation of Israel. With lineage spanning back to Jacob (who had his name changed to Israel) she is the chosen one to bring the messiah into the world.
But similar to the world of dreams, images in the book of Revelation present themselves in this wispy, ethereal manner. The apostle John uses creative license.
Secondly, not only is Satan’s plan thwarted, but he is defeated. Do you believe that there is a connection between our physical world and the spiritual world? When I speak to Mormons, there are certain subjects that make them a bit squeamish. The quickest way to get them to change the subject is to ask them if God the Father lives on a planet circled by a star named Kolob. But we as Christians must not only recognize some of the more esoteric doctrines (like angels) but we must affirm them. The Christmas story is full of them. Gabriel informs Mary about the virgin birth. An angel tells Joseph, “Don’t be afraid to take Mary home as your wife.” We have a whole host of angels revealed to the shepherds. Another angel warns them about Herod’s plan to kill the baby Jesus so they escape to Egypt. Angels are peppered throughout scripture including our passage for this morning. So a few quick observations. First, they seem to know about our thought life. How did the angel know that Joseph had plans to divorce Mary? Either this is a benefit of existing in the spiritual realm, or I think more likely the omniscient God informs them of things. Secondly, their angelic actions have repercussions in the real world. If the angels didn’t reveal themselves to the shepherds, then they wouldn’t be a part of the nativity. Seems simple enough. So the question is, this war that takes place in heaven between Michael and Lucifer, how are we to take it?
Similar to Hercules in Greek mythology, Irish mythology has a warrior hero called Cú Chulainn. Armed with a spear he is known for his terrifying battle frenzy called Riastrad. When Cú Chulainn is mortally wounded he enters a mode called Geasa which is a berserker state. When Geasa manifests itself, he becomes incredibly strong and is able to fight for days without tiring. He becomes fearless and is able to kill his enemies without mercy. But it also drives him to the brink of madness. In the end, Geasa is his undoing, as he ultimately succumbs to his wounds. Satan is like a mortally wounded animal. He is rabid, but his time is short. And so he uses what strength remains to harass the saints. But his pursuit ends in failure once again.
THE ALREADY AND THE NOT YET
There is a theological concept called “The Already and the Not Yet.” In one way, we already have peace. In one way, the war is already over. Jesus Christ secured victory for us on the cross. There are different nations represented in this room right now and you all walk by the light of Jesus. Yes, there’s sin in our midst, but we forgive each other, because Christ forgave us. This day you said to your family, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” And so in one sense, we are already enjoying the New Jerusalem. But there are some things that are not yet. We still struggle with sin and with temptation; we forget that we are dead to sin and alive to God. Satan prowls around with a chain around his neck, and there are more people out there who still need the gospel. The enraged snake would like nothing more to get another chance at that infant, to devour the young child. But one day, the “not yet,” will be “the now.” And when that day comes, the infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. Amen.