Thursday, December 19, 2013

And in the Cosmos, All is Well

Revelation 12, Advent 3
Chatfield United Methodist Church
December 15, 2013
Rev. Debra Jene Collum

Today we look together at the nativity story that you probably have never heard of. It is a little hard to depict this particular story on a Christmas card because instead of stables and lambs there are snakes and dragons. Wars in heaven and earth. Yet, even though it is not often told, It is, IMHO the story that makes the other stories make sense. It is the story that makes the other stories powerful. It is the story that should be told because it is the story we most often need.

When we bury a woman too young. When we hear the evening news and see people destroying other people. When we open our newspapers and see evil triumphant. Shepherds, sheep, wise men and angels are great. But what we really need is the nativity story in the book of Revelation.

Before I read this nativity story I need you to be on the same page with me about how to read the book of Revelation.

The book of Revelation needs to be read as one would read a great myth, like the Iliad or the Odyssey. The book of Revelation needs to be read as one would read the stories of giants and the gods of ancient Rome, of Jupiter and Pluto, Minerva and Neptune, of dragons and sea monsters. Of the great battles of good against evil. the kind that make you sit on the edge of your seat wondering if this will be the time when evil finally wins and all that we know, all that is good is destroyed.

So as you listen to this nativity story, listen as if you are hearing a great story of the battle of good and evil, a great story, a powerful mythology.

Revelation 12
A great Sign appeared in Heaven: a Woman dressed all in sunlight, standing on the moon, and crowned with Twelve Stars. She was giving birth to a Child and cried out in the pain of childbirth.
And then another Sign alongside the first: a huge and fiery Dragon! It had seven heads and ten horns, a crown on each of the seven heads. With one flick of its tail it knocked a third of the Stars from the sky and dumped them on earth. The Dragon crouched before the Woman in childbirth, poised to eat up the Child when it came.

In the ancient world, the heavens were just beyond the stars. For them, the gods were warring and advocating and holding council just beyond reach.
Here, the drama of salvation was taking place just beyond the stars. A woman was giving birth and it was upsetting the balance of power in the universe.
The evil one was not pleased. And was poised to overtake the good, the pure goodness of God’s son that was to be born from this woman.

You see how powerful this nativity, THE nativity story, whether Luke tells it or Matthew or John in the book of Revelation, it is powerful. The very foundations of good and evil, heaven and hell are being tested and tried.
Who will win, will the dragon eat the child? Will the child survive? Will the mother survive?

Virgen de la Pachamama by
Roberto Mamani, Bolivia
Mary as the mother of God in the book of Revelation is not just a young unwed teenager from a small village, but the mother and protector of all creation, the sun and moons, stars and humanity. This how many cultures portray the mother earth goddess. This is how Romans portrayed their mother earth. A woman who protects the earth and creation. This is the mother of God, the mother of Jesus. And she is in peril. Hence the entire creation is in peril, the entire cosmos.

continuing the story
5-6 The Woman gave birth to a Son who will shepherd all nations with an iron rod. Her Son was seized and placed safely before God on his Throne. The Woman herself escaped to the desert to a place of safety prepared by God, all comforts provided her for 1,260 days.
Whew, right?
But this isn’t a Hallmark season special. Evil is not going to give up that easily:

7-12 War broke out in Heaven. Michael and his Angels fought the Dragon. The Dragon and his Angels fought back, but they were no match for Michael. They were cleared out of Heaven, not a sign of them left. The great Dragon—ancient Serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, the one who led the whole earth astray—thrown out, and all his Angels thrown out with him, thrown down to earth. Then I heard a strong voice out of Heaven saying,
“Now God's salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King! Now his Messiah has shown his authority! For the one who stood before our God and accused believers day and night has been thrown out of heaven.

Did you hear the echo of Mary’s Song? This birth of a child struck terror into the dragon and his angels. They were losing their control of the universe. The balance of power was tipping in the wrong direction. So, they declared war on the angels of God.
Trying desperately to regain their foothold in the heavenly realms.
But Michael, representing all that is good, prevailed. The Son of God has been born. The one who brings Salvation to the universe lives! There is a new king of the universe.

The Christians living in the first century needed to hear this. Their world was going to hell in a hand basket, literally. Their children were being sold into slavery of the worst kind, their menfolk were being conscripted into service or arrested on trumped up charges of treason if they didn’t vow allegiance to the Emperor. Their loved ones were being thrown to the lions, used in sport. It was as if the world, their world had become the Hunger Games, literally. It felt as if a war between good and evil was waging all around them. It felt as if they were on the losing side.

All the metaphors you could come up with for disastrous living conditions seemed true.
I don’t know if you can remember what you felt like last year, right now. We had heard of Sandy Hook. Those little children and adults gunned down. In a public school. Where children and their adult caregivers should feel safe. Do you remember how cold your heart felt? How much you questioned the goodness of life? How much you wondered? Is evil winning?

The scriptures do not lie to us. Evil does walk upon the face of this earth, seeking whom it may devour. Revelation 12 reveals that the Dragon is roaming the earth, wild and raging with anger. Waging war the people of God.
You aren’t being paranoid if it feels like evil is around us. If it feels sometimes as if evil is winning.

You aren’t paranoid, you are actually wise. Wise to the ways of God and evil. Wise to see that unless we stay on our guard evil can get a small foothold.

But not victory. NOT victory.
That is the message of this nativity story.

In the heavens, in the vast universe, in the cosmos, in the balance of life, all is well. All is well.
When you put your baby Jesus in his manger this season, remember the birth of this child has defeated, thoroughly and for all time, the ultimate power of evil. All is well, above all else, all is well.

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