It is an interesting thing to note that only very few books of the New Testament say something about the birth of Jesus. Out of the twenty seven books of the NT only the Gospels of St. Matthew and of St. Luke show an interest in the Christmas stories. The key words of the Infancy Narratives like “manger”, “angel”, ‘Bethlehem” and “star of the East” or the personalities like Mary, Joseph, Herod and the wise men are absent in the rest of the New Tetstament.
Infancy Narratives (Mtt 1-2, Lk 1-2) and Rev. 12,1-6:
Rev. 12,1-6 seems to be an Infancy Narrative due to the characters like the “the pregnant woman”, “the dragon” and “a son, a male child”, “who will rule all the nations”. The events narrated in Mtt 2,13-23 will come to our mind when we read “the child was snatched away” and “the woman fled to the desert”. If King Herod is the evil force, who tried to kill “the new born child” in Mtt 2,1-12, it is the dragon who is playing the role of the villain in the Apocalypse. The 1260 days of exile of the “mother and the child” is a parallel to the sufferings of Jesus, who was “under the age of two years”.
However, Rev 12,1-6 does not witness the Infancy of Jesus as such; it is more about the Church than about Jesus, the savior of the world. Just like in the other parts of the book the author is using a symbolic language including a number. Even though the book is called “Revelation”, more things are “hidden” in this. The historical and political context of the author compelled him to use such a language. He is the representative of a persecuted Church during the last period of the rule of Domitian in 95/96 CE. During the vision he got he was an exile in an island called Patmos and he got it on the Day of the Lord (Rev 1,10).
The whole book of Revelation is about the Church and its Lord Jesus Christ. The image of the Woman with the Child and the Dragon is a reference to the persecuted Church. By “Church” I do not mean simply the communities of the baptized only; but also “the other sheep, which belong to Jesus” (Jn 10, 16). The whole world is the Church of Jesus. Following are some forces, which destroy this Church today.
The Dragon of Terrorism and the Cry of the Mother:
The evil forces try to destroy the Church, by snatching the “child” from it. This happens even today. Whatever happened to Jesus in his infancy is happening to His Church too. In place of King Herod and the Dragon we have the terrorists who use the sophisticated weapons. The world is shocked by what happened in Mumbai on November 26. Life is not safe in India too. India was known as a peaceful nation, which did not try to dominate over others; never in its history did it try to terrorize its neighbors. But who is the root cause of all these things? Recently Sukumar Azhikode, the renowned writer, has made a remark, which is thought pricking. He said: “No terrorist is an atheist”. Earlier people were afraid of the atheists, those who did not believe in the existence of God. But today the “terror” is created not by people who do not know God, but by so called religious. They have taken over the charge of the “scribes” of Jerusalem. Basically they are the ones who create “fear” in the minds of the people. Instead of the “innocent children”, who were massacred in Bethlehem, we have the “innocent tourists”. The major religions, including Christianity, have to rethink about their call and responsibility. Otherwise, “atheism” would be more appealing to many people who love humanity, whom the “religious” call “the Image of God”. The “child”, who was a joy for all will be snatched away from us.
Market forces and the values of King Herod:
Once again we are entering the Christmas season: a season of jubilations; a time for greeting others in the name of God; buying beautiful presents for those whom we love; illuminating our houses and institutions; and cutting Christmas cakes. But do we follow the values of Mary and Joseph or those of King Herod and of the city of Jerusalem?
The values of the couple from Nazareth distinguished them from the other people of their time. Mary’s “love of God and of other fellow beings” forced her sing the Magnificat; John’s “devotion to the savior of the world” guided him to choose a strange life style; Joseph’s “readiness to sacrifice his life” helped him to become a part of the Christmas event. These people have overtaken the temptations of this world like “doubt” (about other people’s spirituality), “deviation” (to the palatial pleasures) and “domination” (over others). Modern people, who bow their heads before God would prefer a “way back” to the palace of Herod to “another way”, which is less traveled by. Frank Schaeffer says about these in his beautiful book Dancing Alone: “They are the pawns of ideologically committed, secularized, academic and political social planners, who now measure human worth in dollars and who no longer believe that the ultimate meaning of life is best expressed in worship, love, sacrifice, personal moral accountability and compassion. Rather they believe that life’s purpose is to become a productive member of the secular super state and “global community”, or a dependent victim - a mere statistic in a bureaucratically controlled enterprise of economic production – a “human resource” than a child of God” (P. 33).
Let us come back to the manger of Bethlehem and have a second look at the “new born child”. I wish you all a Blessed Christmas.