The Christmas Dragon

Also. While we’re on the subject of Christmas. I’m preaching on John’s nativity scene at our Christmas Eve service this year.

But wait. You say. John’s gospel doesn’t have a nativity scene.

Indeed. But Revelation does.

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”

This ain’t no stable story.

I’ve preached on it before – but my last talk wasn’t great. So I’m gutting it. And rewriting it. It’s difficult to turn this pretty weird passage into something evangelistic. But I like the coolness of it, and the timing – given that the Hobbit is coming out on Boxing Day and it is pretty dragony.

I’m going to lean heavily on this bit, and just fly over the weird stuff with a short, sharp, explanation of why Revelation tells the Christian story in a symbolic way.

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
11 They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.

Sound enthralling? Come along.

Meet this guy… and the baby who smashes him.


One of the things I’m finding tough is how to articulate that as Christians we do believe in something bigger than ourselves, something supernatural, other than the intangible God and his tangible son, Jesus. That we believe Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection had some meaning beyond what it achieves for us as individuals, and for humans with the arrival of the crucified king of the world… that there was, and is, an entity who didn’t want this to happen. The dragon. Satan.

I find it pretty easy to talk about Jesus. Because he was a man, in history, who is historically plausible. But Satan? And Satan presented as a dragon? I’d rather deal with that in brush strokes and get back to safe and rational ground as quickly as possible.

I can’t figure out why.

We’re pretty good at buying in to struggles between good and evil in just about every story we consume – the Hobbit is an example – so I can’t figure out why I baulk at presenting the “evil” entity, not just the evil that dwells in each sinful person, when it comes to telling people the gospel.


David Ould says:

For the first time ever (I think) I find myself disagreeing w you. At Christmas why would you not preach a Christmas narrative, if only to ensure there are no unnecessary barriers between your audience and the gospel (humanly speaking, that is).

Doesn’t mean we should preach something a bit edgy. I’m musing about going for Herod given the recent events in the US

Nathan Campbell says:

But this is a Christmas narrative.

Nathan Campbell says:

I’m not writing off the midnight service (or 11pm service) – I wouldn’t preach this if I was doing the flagship Christmas morning service…

But if I can get a few people bringing along their nerdy friends (my talk is being advertised at a LAN party tomorrow), and Hobbit fans, then perhaps I’m making the Christmas story a little more engaging, for the type of person who isn’t all that enamoured with laboured stories about how commercial Christmas is, and how we should put the Christ back in, and stuff about animals and shepherds and all that jazz…

Jesus is cool because he’s the slayer of the archetypal dragon. That’s what makes Christmas special.

David Ould says:

thanks Nathan. Sorry for the delay in replying. I think my point is this – I’m all for going for the edgy, i.e. the real bite of the infancy narratives, I just wonder if we end up making life harder for ourselves by immediately generating some dissonance with our audience. Having said that, I’m sure there’s a way you could do this by introducing it in the right manner.

The most egregious messing up of Christmas I ever saw was at a church trying far too hard to “be correct”. The first reading on Christmas morning opened up “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven….”

I think it was that moment that I decided to be determined to never preach anything but clear Christmas texts at Christmas. Why would we go anywhere else? What that church’s attempt to “get the gospel right” by going to Romans 1 actually demonstrated, to my mind at least, was a lack of confidence in the Scriptures – that in the infancy/nativity texts God had not given us sufficient.

Now, of course, I don’t think you’re expressing such a lack of confidence (nor do I think for a moment you would consider me to be making that accusation against you). Perhaps it just explains my own reaction.

Either way, I’d love to see the text when you’ve preached it.

Chris Lindsay says:

I like your instincts with trying something unexpected. Especially for the harry potter generation. I’m finding wrong ideas about spiritual warfare etc abound in our neck of the woods. Especially among the older gen. But i think the attraction is that older christians know the Gospel should not just be all about them. And they want to see some radical displacement of the evil one now and not just in the not yet. Intrigued by your comments about how we tend to feel less articulate in this area than with the historical aspects of Jesus. I wonder if we need to do more careful biblical work here. Eg. can we speak of Gospel proclamation as a spiritual and even supernatural activity happening through natural means. We speak of it in a way that shows it is where and how God works more powerfully in our world. And i guess present a Gospel that lifts people out of a individual salvation to something much bigger. The defeat of death, evil and Satan and the glory of the Father through Christ, etc. Re: Satan, Peter Bolt has a new book out on biblical demonology which i haven’t read yet but think will be worthwhile. I suspect trying to fill a space we traditionally have less to say about. Love a copy of your talk after it’s done.