The Dragon in the Christmas Story

The Dragon in the Christmas Story

If you’ve seen one manger scene, you’ve seen them all. The pieces are the same. Shepherds, angels, and wise men. Joseph, Mary, and a baby. Cows, sheep, and a donkey.

But I’ve never seen a dragon in a creche, have you?

A Dragon in a Crèche?

The Precious Moments Nativity set doesn’t have a fire-breathing dragon. There’s not one in any of the Jerusalem gift shop manger scenes. A quick read of the Gospels assures me that Matthew, Mark, and Luke don’t have one.

But the Revelation of Jesus to John does have a dragon!

You probably didn’t know there was a Nativity story in the Revelation? Sure is. John has a pregnant mother, a baby, angels, stars, and songs coming down out of heaven announcing good news. And right in the middle of his story, he has a dragon.

John didn’t put his Christmas story at the beginning of the book. He put it in the middle: Revelation 12—14. And John’s Christmas story is unlike any you’ve ever heard. Kids could really get into John’s Christmas story. It’s a little like a World Federation Championship Wrestling match—too upsetting for serene people. There’s a dragon, Old Red, right in the middle of the story.

Ready for the story? Here goes.

Yes! A Dragon in the Crèche!

A pregnant woman is having labor pains, trying to deliver a baby. She is vulnerable, weak, exposed. Old Red is poised to eat her baby as soon as it is born. This enormous dragon has seven heads, each crowned, and 10 horns. This is a numerical way of saying, “This dragon is fully equipped to destroy.”

When Old Red swings his tail, stars are bumped from their orbits. No one gets in his way. The woman is in delivery position, and the dragon is licking his chops. The Child is born, and the dragon lunges and bites down. The next thing we hear is the sound of bouncing bicuspids and clanging canines—teeth on teeth. There is no infant morsel. In the nick of time, the child is snatched away.

I’m thinking we’ve heard this story before. Only in the other story, the part of Old Red was played by mean old Herod. He tried to trick the magi from the east into revealing the location of the child Jesus. But they were onto him (hence the name, “wise men”). They didn’t report the location of the child. Herod went slinging his sword in Bethlehem. But in the nick of time, God warned the holy family to get out of town fast. Herod missed.

It seems to me that there are lots of Bible stories about evil power going after God’s seemingly vulnerable hope. Who is this baby that so entices Old Red? John gives us a clue. “And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (Rev.12:5). This quote comes from Ps. 2, a favorite Old Testament expression of hope. In this psalm, God laughs at the pompous kings who plot to topple His Son. God declares that this child will break the arrogant rulers with an iron rod. God addresses them: “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled” (Ps.2:10-12). By quoting Ps. 2, John is putting Old Red on notice—he’s messing with God’s anointed.

Old Red is stubborn. He wants to eat the child so he doesn’t have to kiss the feet. God laughs. Old Red lunges and misses. The child is snatched away, and the mother flees to the wilderness where God nourishes her for 1,260 days. (The 1,260 days or 42 months or three and a half years—it’s all the same—are John’s image for this present evil age.) But her battle with the dragon is not over.

In my next post, I’ll finish the story about Old Red and the war in Heaven to come.



  1. charles e. jones says

    Nice way to present it Dan.

  2. Dan, I love the application to Herod! Preaching through Rev. this year has been one of the greatest challenges of my preaching ministry. But it has been so rewarding! I think I still have audio tapes of the series of sermons you preached on Rev. when I was in college. I may be borrowing your application in weeks to come. I will credit you, of course! Thanks for being such a great role model!

    • I miss doing what you are doing – wrestling with the text on a weekly basis for the joy of preaching to people that I know and love. Do it well. Your work really matters.

  3. Revelation 12 seems to be a retelling of the story of Python (the dragon) and Leto (mother of Apollo) a popular story at the time. A story taken advantage of by Roman emperors. John seems to reverse it here to speak to the churches with Christ as the one who defeats the dragon and brings peace. Craig Koester in his book, Revelation and the end of All things has a good discussion of this.

    • Greg, great insight. Koester’s book on Revelation is one of my favorites. John the Revelator is a masterful writer, using the rich imagery of the OT, plus the culture of Rome and its gods and government, plus the gospel of Jesus. One really has to know all 3 to get a solid appreciation of this book. I’m actually rewriting my Answers for Chicken Little over the hoilidays and plan to include this insight in the new version. Thanks! Dan

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