The Dragon Who Hated Christmas
By David Feddes
Have you ever heard a Christmas story about a dragon? Maybe not. Our make-believe tales about Christmas have Santa Claus and elves and other jolly characters, but never a dragon. The closest thing to a dragon in these stories is an occasional grouch like Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch, but even these grouches end up becoming good in the end. Our made-up Christmas stories don’t have dragons, and when we tell the true stories of Christmas about Jesus’ birth, we still don’t talk much about dragons. We usually focus on peaceful scenes of baby Jesus, joyful shepherds, and happy wise men.
But did you know there’s a Christmas story in the Bible about a dragon? It’s in the book of Revelation, a book of the Bible that’s not usually associated with Christmas. The dragon in this story was the ultimate grouch. He was huge and horrible. He didn’t want Christmas to come. And when Christmas did come, the dragon didn’t have a change of heart and become nice. He became nastier than ever.
Why did the dragon hate Christmas so much? Because Christmas was the day the dragon slayer was born. And dragons aren’t very fond of dragon slayers. Here’s the first part of the story, as told by the apostle John in Revelation 12:1-4.
A great and wondrous 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 his heads. His 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 he might devour her child the moment it was born.
Before we talk about the dragon, let’s first think about the woman and the child. The child to be born is the Savior God promised, the Messiah, the Christ child. Who is the woman about to give birth? Is she the Savior’s mother, the blessed virgin Mary? No, Mary was the woman who literally gave birth to Jesus, but in this symbolic story, the woman represents not just Mary but the whole community of God’s people throughout history. In the symbolism of Revelation, the twelve stars in her crown refer to the twelve tribes of Israel and to the church founded by the twelve apostles. In Revelation 12:17 the Bible speaks of this woman having other offspring, “those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” So the woman in the vision represents not any particular woman but God’s chosen community, his church all through history, the true Israel which gave birth to Jesus and gives spiritual birth to all of God’s children.
Who is the dragon in the story? The dragon who hated Christmas is Satan. Revelation 12:9 speaks of the dragon as “that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.” Does Satan really look like a nasty red dragon? No, Satan is a fallen angel, a being in the spirit world, and as a spirit he doesn’t fit any physical description exactly. Any picture of him is not a snapshot of what he looks like but a symbol of what he acts like.
The Bible always pictures Satan as fearsome and ferocious. Scripture pictures him as a deadly snake, a powerful bully, and a vicious lion looking for someone to devour. Of all the Bible’s fearsome pictures of Satan, perhaps the most frightening is the dragon in Revelation 12.
This enormous, blood-red dragon has seven heads. He is so shrewd and cunning that if one brain doesn’t figure out a plan to get you, he’s got six other brains to think of something. He is so tricky that if one of his many faces doesn’t fool you, he’ll just show you another face and fool you with that one. He is so hard to defeat that even while you’re chopping off one of his heads and defeating one of his strategies, six other heads are opening their mouths to chew you up. This horrid monster has ten horns, showing his stupendous power, and he wears seven crowns on his heads, showing his authority. With just one swing of his tail, he sweeps a third of the stars from the sky: so great is Satan’s power that when he rebelled against God, he swept many angels with him.
In the vision of Revelation 12, the dragon and the pregnant woman are both waiting for Christmas to come. They are waiting for a child to be born. The woman, God’s chosen people, longs for the birth of a dragon slayer who will bring victory over Satan. The dragon, Satan, fears the promised child and wants to devour him the moment he is born.
Eager to Devour
When Revelation 12 pictures a woman wanting to have a special child and a dragon eager to devour her offspring, it gives us a behind-the-scenes look at what was happening throughout Old Testament times.
The Old Testament begins with God’s creation of the world and the sin of our first parents. It was a terrible day when the old serpent Satan led Adam and Eve to disobey God, but even on that day when humanity became corrupt and subject to death, God made a promise which sparked hope in humanity and struck terror into Satan. The Lord said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike at his heel” (Genesis 3:15). That declaration set in motion the drama of all the rest of the Old Testament: God’s people longing to give birth to the promised Savior, and the dragon eager to pounce and devour the promised offspring before the child could destroy him.
Satan pounced on the first godly offspring born to Adam and Eve. Their son Abel was pleasing to God, but Abel’s ungodly brother, Cain, killed him. It seemed the dragon had won; the godly offspring was dead. But then Eve gave birth to a boy named Seth, and Seth had a son named Enosh. “At that time,” says the Bible, “men began to call on the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26). The promise wasn’t dead after all.
But the dragon didn’t give up. He found ways to make humanity so wicked and repulsive and offensive to God that the Lord decided to wash the whole mess away in a flood. It seemed there would be nobody to carry on the line of promise. “But,” says the Bible, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8). God rescued Noah and his family in the ark and promised never again to flood the whole world. The dragon still hadn’t been able to wipe out the seed of the woman.
As time went on, God dealt in a special way with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (also called Israel), and the Lord made it clear that the promised child would be born from the Israelite people. The dragon set out to destroy all male offspring of Israel. While the Israelites were living in Egypt, a hostile ruler decided to get rid of them. This pharaoh ordered that every male child born to an Israelite be killed (Exodus 1:16). But God moved some brave midwives to disobey Pharaoh and save many babies, and God moved one particular family to save a special baby named Moses. That baby grew up and eventually led the Israelites out of Egypt. Again the dragon’s designs were frustrated. (See Exodus 1-12.)
But Satan is nothing if not persistent. As the history of the Israelite nation unfolded, God said that the line of King David would produce the promised Savior. So Satan did his best to wipe out that line. Centuries after David, the crown prince of Israel, a descendant of David, married an awful woman named Athaliah. This woman’s parents were Ahab and Jezebel, two of the most evil, demon-serving people who ever lived, and Athaliah was as bad as both her parents combined. She married into David’s line, and her husband eventually became king. When he died, their son became king. But then the son died, and Athaliah decided to make herself queen and to destroy the whole royal family and wipe out every descendant of David. To do this, she had to murder her own grandchildren—and she was willing to do it. She was obviously in the grip of Satan. But again the dragon failed. A godly priest and his heroic wife hid away one of those children from David’s line, a little baby named Joash. Eventually Joash became king, and Athaliah was killed. The line of David lived on. (See 2 Kings 11.)
Later in Israel’s history, during the time of the Persian empire, the dragon dreamed of wiping out the whole Jewish nation. A powerful official named Haman hated the Jews with a demonic hatred. He devised a plan to slaughter every Jew in the entire world. But unknown to Haman, the king’s wife, Queen Esther, happened to be Jewish. God had placed her on the throne for just such a time. Esther told the king about Haman’s plot. Haman was executed, and the Jewish people lived on (Esther 3-8).
If you read casually in the Old Testament, these different events may seem to be unrelated. But Revelation 12 shows what was happening behind the scenes. All through Israel’s history, she was longing and a straining to give birth to the deliverer, the promised Messiah. Time after time, the dragon tried to swallow up the offspring of the woman, the chosen community, even before she could give birth to that one great child who would crush the dragon’s head. But God was always ahead of the dragon, and the promise remained alive.
The Dragon’s Defeat
Then came the moment God’s people longed for, the day the dragon dreaded. The angel Gabriel told a young woman named Mary that she would give birth to the long-awaited child. What joy for Mary to be chosen as the woman to bear the promised offspring!
But for the dragon there was no joy, only desperation. Once the child Jesus was born, Satan had to find a way to destroy him before Jesus could do what he came to do. A paranoid, vicious king named Herod ordered that all the baby boys in Bethlehem be slaughtered. It wasn’t just Herod giving the order; it was the dragon. But when the babies were murdered, Jesus was not among the victims. An angel of God had warned his parents to flee.
Still Satan did not give up. All through Jesus’ life, the dragon kept trying devour him. Satan tempted Jesus to sin, but Jesus refused. Satan prompted crowds of people to seize Jesus and try to kill him, but time after time Jesus slipped away. Jesus continued his ministry of preaching and healing, and whenever Jesus came near, the demons cried out and fled.
Satan wanted to stop Jesus and kill him, but one thing he didn’t want was for Jesus to finish his earthly ministry and then die voluntarily in obedience to his Father as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. Satan knew that if that happened, his own head would be crushed. So the dragon prompted a dear friend of Jesus, Simon Peter, to urge Jesus not to follow the hard road of obedience and sacrifice. When Jesus mentioned going to Jerusalem to die, Peter protested. “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Jesus heard Peter’s voice, but he smelled dragon breath. He told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.”
Finally, in his hatred, the frustrated Satan entered the traitorous heart of Judas and manipulated Jewish and Roman leaders to torture Jesus and nail him to a cross. But in the very moment where the serpent struck the child’s heel, the Messiah crushed Satan’s head once and for all. Jesus paid the price of sin on the cross, overwhelmed the power of death, arose from the grave, ascended to the throne of heaven, and sealed Satan’s doom forever.
Despite all the dragon’s efforts to swallow up the holy line even before Jesus could be born, the child was born as promised. And despite all Satan’s efforts to swallow up Jesus himself and thwart his saving work, Christ succeeded and did everything he came to do and then was caught up to the throne of God. Jesus defeated the dragon. Revelation 12:5 summarize all this by simply saying that the woman “gave birth to a son, a male child, “who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.”
Victory For Angels and Christians
The story goes on to show how Jesus’ life in the human realm affected the spirit realm. The child who came to this earth on Christmas also enabled his angels to win a great war in heaven. Revelation 12:7-9 says,
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
Because the holy child defeated the dragon, the good angels were able to defeat the fallen angels.
The battle between good angels and evil demons might be an even match if it were just the power of angels against the power of demons. The two armies might fight to a standoff. But when the Son of God carries out his mission, the devil and his demons are forced to flee. Against God’s great Son, they have no chance.
The battle between good and evil is not a battle between two equally powerful forces. Satan may be a dreadful dragon, but the power of Satan and all his demons compared with the power of Christ is like a fly compared to an elephant. Jesus proved that even his weakness was stronger than Satan’s power! It was in his times of greatest weakness—squirming as a helpless baby in a manger, hungry and weary in a wilderness of temptation, hanging as a convicted criminal on a cross—it was in his weakness that Jesus defeated the dragon.
Jesus’ victory set off a chain reaction. His holy angels were able to cast Satan down, and Jesus’ followers on earth were also able to defeat Satan. Revelation 12 says,
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 Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame 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 (v. 10-11).
The dragon is defeated by the word of Christians’ testimony and by the blood of the lamb. Satan throws accusations at God’s people, but God won’t listen. It is Jesus who has his Father’s ear, not Satan, and Jesus is at God’s right hand interceding for us. What counts is not what Satan says against us but what Jesus has done for us. Jesus defeated the dragon, and so those who trust in Jesus also defeat the dragon. When Satan accuses you of sin and says God can’t possibly accept you, you overcome the devil by trusting the blood of the Lamb, the blood of Jesus, to cover your sins. When Satan tries to fool you into believing false teaching, you overcome him by the truth of God revealed in Christ. Your words of testimony drive back Satan’s lies and help other people to come to the truth as well. When Satan tries to crush you through trouble and persecution and death, you defeat the dragon by not running away even from death but rather trusting in the resurrection power of Jesus. You follow Jesus no matter what the cost, and you triumph in him.
What a story! First the dragon tries to prevent the child from ever being born, and then he tries to devour the child. But Christ defeats the dragon; his angels defeat the dragon’s angels; and all who trust in Christ also defeat the devil. What joyous news!
The Dragon’s Fury
But maybe you’re not convinced. You hear what the Bible says about the dragon’s defeat, and you say to yourself, “That’s a nice story, but it doesn’t look to me like Satan is defeated. If anything, it looks like he’s winning. Sin and savagery and sadness seem worse than ever.” Well, it’s true that Satan is doing a lot of damage, but does that mean he’s winning? No, it shows he’s already lost. Revelation 12 describes the dragon’s defeat and then adds, “Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” Why is Satan doing so much damage? Not because he’s winning, but because he’s a dragon that has received a terrible wound and is living on borrowed time.
In World War II Adolph Hitler’s doom was certain after the Allied landing in Normandy succeeded on D-Day, June 6, 1944. From that point on, it was just a matter of time. But did Hitler and the Nazis become kinder and gentler or give up? No, in December of 1944 they threw everything they had into one last bloody offensive, the Battle of the Bulge. They also killed more people than ever in the death camps. The time between D-Day and final victory was the most terrible time of the whole war, not because Hitler was winning, but because he was doomed.
So, too, Satan is doomed but not yet gone. When Jesus came the first time in weakness, it was enough to defeat and crush the dragon and ensure his doom. When Jesus comes again, it will be in power and glory, with his saints and angels, and the dragon will be cast into the lake of fire. Satan is a defeated dragon destined for hell, so he’s thrashing around trying to hurt anything he can in the time he has left. “He is filled with fury, for he knows that his time is short.”
Satan is doomed. He couldn’t prevent the birth of Jesus; he couldn’t overcome Jesus; and now he can’t even get at Jesus. The child born on Christmas reigns from heaven’s throne. Satan can only take out his frustration somewhere else, on the woman who gave birth to Christ and on the woman’s other children.
After Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the dragon did his utmost to wipe out the woman, the community of faith. Satan sent many cults and deadly doctrines to mislead the early church. He aroused all sorts of vicious persecution to wipe the church from the face of the earth. But Jesus protected his church, as he had promised, and the gates of hell could not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
With Jesus’ victory in heaven, and with the church having survived Satan’s most vicious onslaught, Satan became even angrier. Revelation 12:17 says, “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commands and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” The dragon who hated the Christ child also hates Christians.
To understand how much Satan hates Christians, you have to know how much Satan hates Christ. The destroyer hates the Creator. The murderer hates the Lord of life. The father of lies hates the living Truth. The enemy of our souls hates the friend of sinners. The prince of darkness hates the light of the world. Now that he can’t get at Jesus, all his hatred is directed at us. The dragon can’t stop Jesus or wipe out his church, so he vents his hatred on as many individual Christians as he can. He tries to tempt us, accuse us, intimidate us, make us as miserable as possible, and weaken our witness to others. So if you love Jesus, be prepared for the dragon’s onslaughts, but don’t be intimidated. Don’t be fooled into thinking the devil is winning. He has already lost.
Maybe you’re not a follower of Jesus at all. If that’s the case, you have no chance against the power of Satan. If you don’t change, you’ll end up in the lake of fire along with the dragon and his demons. Don’t be on the losing side. Turn away from sin and Satan. Trust Jesus as your Savior and Master.
And once you belong to Jesus, be aware of the dragon’s fury and alert to his schemes, but don’t be overwhelmed. Focus on Jesus and his victory. No matter how fearsome Satan seems, Jesus is far greater. The dragon is defeated. He threw all his power into destroying the Christ child, and he lost. The Bible says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). No wonder the dragon hated Christmas and hates it still! Christmas is when the Son of God appeared on earth to destroy the devil’s work.
So let’s rejoice in the birth of the dragon slayer, and let’s rejoice that he enables you and me to be dragon slayers. The Bible not only says that Jesus crushed the serpent’s head under his feet but it also says, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20).
So let’s celebrate, participate, and anticipate. Let’s celebrate the first coming of Christ and his victory over Satan. Let’s participate in spiritual warfare against a defeated but still dangerous enemy, and let’s overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony. And let’s anticipate Jesus’ coming again and the dragon-free joy of God’s new creation.
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.