The World in Solemn Stillness Lay

There is one view of Christmas I have never seen on a Christmas card, probably because no artist, not even William Blake, could do it justice. In Revelation 12, the Bible contains a scene that pulls back the curtain to give us a glimpse of Christmas as it looked from somewhere far beyond Andromeda: Christmas from God's viewpoint.

The account in Revelation differs radically from the birth stories in the Gospels. Revelation does not mention shepherds and an infanticidal king; rather, it pictures a dragon leading a ferocious struggle in heaven. A woman clothed with the sun and wearing a crown of 12 stars cries out in pain as she is about to give birth. Suddenly, the enormous red dragon enters the picture, his tail sweeping a third of the stars out of the sky and flinging them to the earth. He crouches hungrily before the woman, eager to devour her child the moment it is born. At the last second, the infant is snatched away to safety, the woman flees into the desert, and all-out cosmic war begins.

Revelation is a strange book by any measure, and you would need to understand its style to make sense of this extraordinary scene. In daily life, two parallel histories occur simultaneously: one on earth and one in heaven. Revelation, however, views them together, allowing a quick look behind the scenes at the cosmic impact of what happens on earth. On earth, a baby was born, a king got wind of it, a chase ensued. In heaven, the Great Invasion had begun, a daring raid by the ruler of the forces of good into the universe's seat of evil.

John Milton expressed this point of view majestically in Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, poems that make heaven and hell the central focus and Earth a mere battleground ...

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