A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God. Hosea 4:12
Then the angel said to me, "The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages
The book of Revelation has to be the most misunderstood book in the entire Bible. With its incredible images of judgements, bowls of wrath, trumpets, scrolls, beasts, scorpions, armies, cosmic war and worship, it is often difficult to understand the message. The book of Revelation is written in a style of literature described as apocalyptic. Other books of the Bible like that are the book of Daniel and the book of Zechariah. Apocalyptic literature uses symbols and metaphors to instill hope regarding the current and future interventions of God.
Now, what in the world does the book of Revelation have to do with Christmas? Christmas on one hand seems to be so joyful (I can hear a chorus singing "Joy to World" in my head as I write this) while Revelation seems dark, heavy handed, and somber. Yet, I think because we miss the message of Revelation, that we cast it into our bin of dreadful things that we do not wish to think about.
The book of Revelation is first and foremost a story of hope. Its images, metaphors, and narratives provide the reader with a confidence that God is still at work and that He is, He will, and He has intervened.
There is a contrast in two different metaphors in Revelation is that is key to understanding what God is saying today. The first is the symbol of the prostitute in Revelation 17. The Prostitute is not speaking about a worldwide sexual immorality, but represents seduction and the power of world systems (or what used to be called worldliness). We are constantly being faced with the choice of following God, and his way through Jesus, or accepting the World's standards of greed, violence, self-centeredness, and exploitation. Prosititution is being seduced away from the way of God.
The other metaphor in Revelation is the bride (Rev 19-21). The metaphor of the bride is that of faithfulness, loyalty, purity, and devotion to the groom. Again, the writer of Revelation is not talking marriage, but the devotion to God through Christ.
Every Christmas, we are tempted to make Christmas a consumeristic, self-centered display of greed and excess. This is the world's Christmas. A secular holiday that is about the giving and consumption of things. Ads for Christmas shopping seduce us as the people using the products seem so happy.
Yet, we are the bride. While we participate in Christmas and present and receive gifts, that is not the extent of our Christmas. Our Christmas is celebrating a God who loved us so much that he gave us the ultimate gift: Life and Love through his son. It is about God's love, faithfulness, provisions, kindness, and joy. Focusing on anything else is under our privilege.
I am not saying the participating in gift giving and receiving is evil or wrong, but that if that becomes the primary focus of your celebration, you have already been seduced.
This Christmas, beware of the prostitute, remember the bride. Celebrate the Christmas the way that it was intended. Ultimately in Revelation, it is the bride that lives on and the prostitute and those seduced who are destroyed.
For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (I John 2:16-17)
May God bless you,
Pastor M Traylor