THE CHRISTMAS THAT COULD NOT BE STOPPED
1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne.
— Revelation 12:1-5, ESV
My two favorite Christmas cartoons have always been Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Charles Shultz’ A Charlie Brown Christmas. One is about a character who tries to stop Christmas from coming:
“Why for fifty-three years I've put up with it now!
I must stop Christmas from coming! But how?”
The other is about a kid who gets up on stage at a school play rehearsal and quotes the Gospel of Luke, 2:8-14, word for word, from the King James Version:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
At the end of the day, or at the conclusion of these cartoons, their combined messages form two convergent themes. You cannot stop Christmas from coming. Christmas is about the advent of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The effort to try to stop Christmas is not exclusive to The Grinch. And try as Linus may, most people still do not know the true meaning of Christmas. This is why we need to be reminded of the one Christmas that could not be stopped.
The War on Christmas
The contemporary war on Christmas was catapulted into our consciousness in 2005 when Fox News reporter John Gibson authored a book entitled, plainly enough, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought. I agree and disagree with the title and subtitle. There is an obvious, ongoing movement in our country to obscure Christ and Christianity from the public square, but it could be a whole lot worse, if a certain Christmas could have been stopped as planned.
You already know what has been going on in society. “Merry Christmas” signs have been taken down, “Happy Holidays” banners have been lifted up. The ACLU, the AU (Americans United for Separation of Church and State), and other secularist organizations have been behind this and other efforts to threaten Christians, file lawsuits, and prohibit the real Christmas story from being told in public. Linus would need a good lawyer in this day and age.
This is all bothersome to we Christians, and somewhat ridiculous in a country where eighty-percent of the citizens claim to be Christian. I realize that percentage is greatly inflated when weighed by biblical definitions, but it is still true that most people in America do want the kind of Christmas celebrations that are being fought against by a small percentage of atheists, adherents of other religions, and other assorted grinches.
But do not be alarmed. These warriors against our biblical and traditional Christmas values are a bunch of lightweights. Have they stopped one Christmas from coming? No! Have they stripped us of our freedom of speech to proclaim, “Merry Christmas?” No! Have they taken away our freedom of religion to worship and witness the gospel of Jesus Christ in public services and conversations? No!
This war on Christmas has failed and will continue to fail until Christ returns to earth. This is because a much more serious war on Christmas has already been raged, and repulsed, for there is one Christmas you cannot stop from coming. That would be the first one.
The Real War on Christmas
The real war on Christmas plays out, in of all places, the pages of the book of The Revelation, the apocalyptic vision given by the Son of God through the Spirit of God to a servant of God named John. In chapter twelve, he writes in prophetic retrospect about the first Christmas, and how it almost did not happen at all.
The “woman” in the text is clearly a reference to the Old Covenant people of God, the “twelve stars” representing the twelve tribes of Israel. The birth in reference is that of “a male child, one who is to rule all the nations.” This is the promised Messiah, whom we now know to be the Lord Jesus Christ. The revelation of Revelation 12 is not as warm and fuzzy as the gospel of Luke 2, but it is clearly about the birth of Christ, the first Christmas.
Who would want to stop the birth of Christ? Not a green grinch, but “a great red dragon,” that’s who. And, he has help in the form of “seven heads and ten horns,” plus “a third of the stars in heaven.” Sounds like a formidable enemy in this real war on Christmas.
The “red dragon” is a symbol of Satan, a figure the vast majority of Americans believe is only a symbol (George Barna). “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist” (Charles Baudelaire, famously quoted in the movie The Usual Suspects). The Bible reveals Satan to be a real, personal devil, a fallen arch-angel, who fiercely opposes God, falsely accuses the people of God, and fights against the gospel of Jesus Christ at every turn. He has been wildly successful in seducing some of the most powerful people in the world (“seven heads and ten horns”) and he has an array of demons (“a third of the stars”) to assist him in his bidding. And when it comes to Christmas, the very first Christmas, he violently and relentlessly tried to stop it. “The dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it.”
The war was on, and the war was won, by God. The Lord kept Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus under the radar for the Savior’s crucial hour of birth. Eventually, the Messianic secret got out. Herod the Great murdered every male child in and around Bethlehem two years old and under to try to stop Christmas. It did not work, but Herod himself died trying.
To counter Satan’s schemes, God kept the Christ in hiding, for the most part, for the next thirty years, until John the Baptist held Christ’s coming out party at the Jordan River. Then, all Heaven and Hell broke loose for the next three years.
Satan and his forces tried to stop Christmas, and stop Jesus Christ, at every turn. He turned the religious establishment against Christ. He turned the government against Christ. He succeeded in ways the ACLU can only dream about. At last, the dragon thought he had ended Christ and Christianity before the gospel could be fully born, in a three-way script of insider betrayal (Judas), religious persecution (Pharisees and Sadducees), and government execution (Pontius Pilate). Thanks be to God, it did not work. You cannot wage war with God and win.
The Christmas That Could Not Be Stopped
Mary, blessed among women, “gave birth to a male child.” One day, when Jesus comes again, He will “rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” And when Satan tried to stop Him, even by crucifying Him, the Lord Jesus Christ “was caught up to God and to His throne.”
The devil’s heart cannot grow three sizes, because he does not have one. The powers that be who are trying to snuff out biblical Christianity, from faithless insiders to government intruders, will never stop trying to stop Christmas and Christianity, because they have this false sense of security that they are winning. Are they?
Look back. The first Christmas was not stopped. “Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born!” And He grew, He ministered, He died for our sins, He rose again.
Look around. Christmas has not stopped. Here we are, lighting advent candles, singing Christmas hymns, praising God, hearing His word, building His church, awaiting His return.
Look above. Christmas cannot be stopped, Christ has come, and Christ is coming again. He will bring a new and perfect heaven and earth, glorious gifts to all who have repented and believed in Him. The celebration will never stop.
Look at the last line of the beloved Dr. Seuss, and allow me to furnish an addendum, an ode to the Christmas that could not be stopped:
“Welcome Christmas while we stand
Heart to heart and hand in hand.”
Celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ,
Who gives forgiveness and everlasting life.
Trust in the Lord, while you can,
The day is coming when this world will end.
Christmas will endure, a celebration galore,
For those who dwell in the house of the Lord.