A Very Apocalyptic Christmas – Part Four

On Monday, we began our Christmas week series through Revelation chapter 12. You need to start from the beginning of the week, or this won’t make sense. 

The unhappy dragon

So far, we’ve seen the dragon (Satan) defeated in his attempts to kill the young hero born to a woman. What’s more, he’s been cast down from the skies. Defeated, yes, but not yet destroyed. And as you might expect, the dragon isn’t particularly happy about being cast down from the sky. In fact, the voice from heaven gives us a bit of a warning:

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A Very Apocalyptic Christmas – Part Three

On Monday, we began our Christmas week series through Revelation chapter 12. You need to start from the beginning of the week, or this won’t make sense. 

So far, we’ve read Revelation 12 and identified the woman as “Mother Zion” – the true mother of the real saviour of the world (not Mother Rome and her emperor-son). The dragon is Satan, who – just like in Greek and Roman mythology – wants to kill the saviour-god who is born. But he’s thwarted in his plans, and is defeated by the young hero when he comes of age.

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A Very Apocalyptic Christmas – Part Two

Yesterday, we began our Christmas week series through Revelation chapter 12. You need to start from yesterday, or this won’t make sense. To be honest, it might not make sense even if you do, but you want to give yourself the best chance…

So we’ve read Revelation 12 and identified the woman as “Mother Zion” – the true mother of the real saviour of the world (not Mother Rome and her emperor-son). But who are the other characters in this Christmas drama?

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A Very Apocalyptic Christmas – Part One

To end our Revelation series – and to prepare for Christmas on the weekend – we’re going to be looking at everyone’s favourite Christmas-themed passage: Revelation chapter 12. (What could possibly go wrong?)

But this is a very different telling of the Christmas story from the ones we’re most familiar with. It’s not the one from the Gospel of Matthew, written from the perspective of a Jew who saw Jesus’ birth as the fulfilment of OT prophecy. Nor is it the one from Luke’s Gospel, from the perspective of a Gentile historian, who saw Jesus’ birth as part of God’s great plan of salvation for all of humanity.

In fact, it’s not really told from a human, earthly perspective at all. But a heavenly one. A spiritual one. A vision given to a guy called John while he was exiled on the island of Patmos, and written down in what we call the book of Revelation.

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Out of Egypt (Matt 2:13-16)

(Continuing in our pre-Christmas series through Matthew chapters 1 and 2, focusing on the Old Testament background.)  

Last week we saw one example of how Matthew takes time out from telling the story of Jesus to draw out parallels with events in the Old Testament. “That reminds me of the time when…” There’s often an immediate surface connection between the New Testament story and the Old Testament reference – for example, place names, or key words. But the primary connection is big-picture. It’s in the continuity between the way God worked in the history of Israel, and in the life of Jesus.

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We are the Magi (Matt 2:1-12)

(Continuing in our pre-Christmas series through Matthew chapters 1 and 2, focusing on the Old Testament background. Read Matt 2:1-12.) 

This is a very familiar story – the Magi coming to worship the infant Jesus, bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. An overly familiar story. To the point where we often gloss over some of the questions it raises.

What are astrologers doing as the ‘good guys’ in a Bible story?

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The Sign of Immanuel – Part 1 (Matt 1:18-25)

(Continuing in our pre-Christmas series through Matthew chapters 1 and 2, focusing on the Old Testament background. Read Matt 1:18-25.) 

It’s Christmas afternoon. Things are quietening down after lunch. Everyone’s well fed and starting to get that glazed look in their eye. It’s about time for a nap. And then, probably from one of the older relatives in the room, you hear the dreaded phrase: ‘that reminds me of the time…’ And you all settle in for a long-winded story from the distant past. One that appears, at least on the surface, to have only the loosest of connections with what’s going on in the present. ‘That reminds me of the time when your father was a youngster…’

Or if you survive Christmas day intact, just tune in to channel 9 the next day. First day of the Boxing Day test. Guaranteed it won’t be long before something reminds Richie Benaud of a test match back about 50 years ago. Invariably involving a leg spinner. Again, the connection’s lost on most people. But at least in Richie’s mind, something in the present sparks a memory from the past, and away we go.

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A Very Matthean Christmas – Part 3 (Matt 1:1-17)

The final unexpected character in Jesus’ family tree (see the previous two days’ posts) isn’t even named. So far we’ve seen Tamar, involved in one of the earliest sex-scandals in Israel’s history. Then Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute. And Ruth, a Moabite woman. All giving us clues as to what Jesus was going to be about – showing God’s forgiveness to sinners, God’s kindness to the poor, and God’s heart for people from all nations. And then we read on, to find the last woman mentioned:

1:3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, 4 Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife

Uriah’s wife? That would be Bathsheba. Referred to as the one who “had been Uriah’s wife” as a way of highlighting the scandal. You might remember the story from 2 Samuel 11. I’m going to outsource most of today’s notes to one of my favourite video clips by John Piper. He reminds us of the story, before showing how this relates to what Jesus came to do.

(Watch from 23 mins 11 sec until end. It should auto-start from that point.)

It’s powerful stuff. And here, before Jesus is even born in the Christmas story, this incident in the life of King David is highlighted by Matthew. Showing that Jesus came to bring good out of the sinful mess his world had become. Where even “a man after God’s own heart” can mess up this badly.

David had other children. One of them could have become king. But Solomon did. One of them could have been the line through which Jesus would come. But it was through the child conceived from an adulterous relationship that God chose. Doesn’t that tell us so much about what kind of God we serve? What kind of saviour Jesus would be? And that no matter what it is we’ve done, how much God is prepared not only to forgive, but to continue to work his purposes in our lives?

Sure, there will be consequences for our sin in this life. After all, David and Bathsheba’s first child died. But through it God can still work. That’s the Christmas message.

A Very Matthean Christmas – Part 2 (Matt 1:1-17)

Yesterday we began looking at the genealogy (list of ancestors) in Matthew 1:1-17, and read the story of Tamar, who features in it. We saw that far from airbrushing the skeletons in Jesus’ family tree out of his presentation, Matthew draws attention to them. Yesterday, it was a sex-scandal. Today, we see two Gentiles (non-Israelites), one of whom has a less-than-stellar occupation.

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