"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child."*
Not far from Bethlehem, bivouacked in the Judean hills with his hoards of demons, Satan contemplated Joseph’s journey. In the spiritual battle for the hearts and lives of humankind, this inconsequential couple, pregnant out of wedlock, an embarrassment, were the avenue by which God would initiate His coup de grace of mankind’s redemption. While the world took no notice, Satan knew, God knew, the demons and angels knew, and Joseph knew - Mary was pregnant with the Messiah. With His birth, it would be Christmas.
God was not perturbed or anxious. His plan was working just as He had conceived it from before He laid the foundations of the world. Although not visible to Joseph and Mary, an elite corps of angelic, special agents guarded their every move. The hosts of heaven stood ready to trumpet their praise to God with a celebration second only to that planned for the End of Time. The archangel, Michael, and the armies of heaven stood at "red alert" should God issue them a command. Christmas must not be deterred. Meanwhile, Satan paced, spat, and cursed to himself, brooding, There must be a way.
While Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, "the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
With the sound of Mary’s labor pains, Satan stalked closer, determined to destroy and devour the child, the hope of mankind, the light of the world, the Crown Prince of heaven’s kingdom. His was a desperate plan conceived for a desperate moment. In Satan’s war of rebellion, this birth was the harbinger of a heavenly weapon unparalleled in the universe and was without equal in all of hell’s arsenal. In the intimate quiet of this Middle Eastern stable, in a stall filled with fresh straw, Mary labored while all around her the demons lurked and the devil poised for a fatal blow to her helpless child. Christmas was imminent.
The ranks of angels in heaven’s army waited in disciplined anticipation for a command from Michael, whose eyes were fixed on God. Before them was an earthly scene not unlike any other birth. But from a spiritual perspective, a great initiative was about to be launched. Awaiting the birth of Jesus was an anxious man, Joseph, and a great, red dragon—Satan—having seven heads and ten horns and a tail that twitched from side to side doing violence throughout the universe as if to destroy the stars in the sky.** His rage at this young woman was controlled only by his anticipation of her giving birth to the Son of God, the heir to the throne, a seat he wanted for himself.
With one final push the baby was born and the enormous dragon lurched forward. The heavenly hosts broke into praises to God accompanied by trumpets and cymbals. God nodded. Michael and the armies of heaven leaped at His bidding and there was war in the heavens between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his demons. The tide turned quickly against the serpent of old, the great dragon, the deceiver of the world. It was Christmas morning.
As the world slept placidly, Mary cradled her new-born. Joseph methodically tended to his family and freshened the straw in the stable while the cattle chewed their cud. "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
"Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.’"
On this night, the course of history changed. Earth, hell, and heaven would never again be the same. In a placid Judean town, nestled in the hills, in a simple feeding trough for livestock, a helpless boy-child with an olive complexion was wrapped in rags and laid to rest on fresh straw. God had invaded earth, the seat of the dragon’s bastion. All around the spiritual world convulsed with the ebb and flow of combat. The great dragon did signs and wonders, children were murdered, and Joseph and Mary eventually fled to Egypt for safety. Michael and the army of heaven carried them as though on eagle’s wings. While the hosts of heaven declared the glories of the Lord and his grace, the dragon dragged the very stars from heaven and flung them angrily about.
In Bethlehem, a baby was born. In heaven, a spiritual revolution established an earthly beachhead that would forever change the course of history and reclaim the hearts of mankind. Christmas had come. The angels filled the universe with their songs. God had become a man.
We live in parallel worlds, and as Philip Yancey says, "One world consists of hills and lakes and barns and politicians and shepherds watching their flocks by night. The other consists of angels and sinister forces and somewhere out there places called heaven and hell. One night in the cold, in the dark, among the wrinkled hills of Bethlehem, those two worlds came together at a dramatic point of intersection. But the few eyewitnesses on Christmas night saw none of that. They saw an infant struggling to work never-before-used lungs."
Unflinching in His determination, God continues to execute His plan of reconciliation. It is His all-out, last ditch effort to once again state in words we can not mistake, in words that echo from the lips of an angelic envoy in the Judean hills, down to the pits of hell, up to the ramparts of heaven, and into the hearts of every man, woman, boy, and girl: "I love you. Merry Christmas."
* Reference Luke 2:1-20 (NIV)
** General reference to Revelation 12:1-17 (NASB)
© Presont Gillham, December 1997