Reality of Christmas
What did you get?
What Did You Get for Christmas?
After Jesus was born, three magi from the east visited the newborn King, and bestowed on Him precious gifts. Symbolically, they represented the three key features of the life of Jesus. Gold signifies His divine nature. Here was a little baby, yet He was the great I AM, God Himself clothed in human flesh. His life was gold. Frankincense symbolizes a life of prayer, meaning a life that was constantly and intimately mingled with His Heavenly Father in wonderful unbroken fellowship. Myrrh symbolizes the sweetness of His death. The culmination of His golden life of prayer was offering Himself up as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. Praise Him!
So what is Christmas to you? I was just reading Revelation 18 this morning. Babylon the Great is quite a sight, and in this book of symbols it has been interpreted many ways through the ages. It clearly stands as the great enemy and antagonist to God's people, and is the evil "other woman" to the final vision in Revelation of the Wife of the Lamb, the people of God who love Jesus in Revelation 21. To ignore what Babylon the Great is would be very serious, as it must even today be the key stumbling block to God's people. The word says "Come out of her, my people, that you have no participation in her sins, and that you don’t receive of her plagues" (18:4). Babylon is ultimately and utterly destroyed.
Babylon the Great in Revelation 18 seems very clearly to me to symbolize global materialism, fueled by capitalism. By materialism I mean the view that life is mainly about accumulating and possessing material goods, and social interactions are about self-seeking transactions, where people are viewed more as a commodity than as people. It is thus absolutely contrary to the teachings of Jesus, which is mainly about love. While Jesus teaches us that the greatest thing is to love God with our whole being, and to love our neighbor as ourself (Mark 12:29-31), materialism teaches that joy and happiness and value come from buying and possessing more things, and to treat people as means to an end, not the end itself. Christmas began to be intimately associated with buying things relatively recently as a marketing gimmick. Many countries, especially the United States, are based on accumulation of wealth. Many Christians in this country have fallen for the delusion that great wealth is even a sign of God's blessing. When we read Revelation 18, it is like we are visiting Amazon.com:
"The kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived wantonly with her, will weep and wail over her, when they look at the smoke of her burning, standing far away for the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For your judgment has come in one hour.’ The merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise any more; merchandise of gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, fine linen, purple, silk, scarlet, all expensive wood, every vessel of ivory, every vessel made of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble; and cinnamon, incense, perfume, frankincense, wine, olive oil, fine flour, wheat, sheep, horses, chariots, and people’s bodies and souls. The fruits which your soul lusted after have been lost to you, and all things that were dainty and sumptuous have perished from you, and you will find them no more at all" (v 9-14).
The Essence of Babylon and the Antidote
Sexual immorality is also translated fornication. It is a union of humans based not on love and commitment, but on self-seeking lust. The Greek word is "porneia" which is from the root word meaning "to sell". It means having a relationship that is basically the same as buying and selling a thing, not a real person. Fornication is thus the opposite of love. Fornication in the Bible is mainly associated with idolatry (Acts 15:21; Rev 2:14), as they are similar. Idolatry replaces our love for God with a cheap imitation. Fornication replaces our love for people with self-seeking lust.
Babylon the Great is both. It is the ultimate replacement and counterfeit for the living God, and the damaging substitute for loving one another. How to escape Babylon? The key thing is what are you seeking today? What is valuable to you? What is your eye today looking for? Jesus said:
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t serve both God and material riches" (Matt 6:22-24).
Our calling is to see the riches of Christ, to value and love Him above all else, and to pursue Him. It is to share those riches of Christ, which are love, joy, peace, etc. with others. The Magi, the Wise Men, saw the value of Christ, and sought Him from afar. Wise men still seek Him. This life produces the Wife of the Lamb. This is why we are on earth. The alternate life is to pursue material things and to treat people as a means to an end. This is Babylon the Great and leads to destruction.