When a dragon tried to eat Jesus: the nativity story we don’t talk about


Chad Bird:

I’m still searching for a Christmas card with a red dragon in the nativity, lurking amidst the cows and lambs, waiting to devour the baby in the manger.

None of the Gospels mention this unwelcome visitor to Bethlehem, but the Apocalypse does. John paints a seven-headed, ten-horned red dragon onto the peaceful Christmas canvas. You can read all about it in Revelation 12.

It’s the nativity story we don’t talk about. A dragon trying to eat our Lord.

The red dragon was standing “before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.”

Clearly, more was going on at Christmas than drinking eggnog and kissing under the mistletoe. Or even peace on earth.

Hark the herald angels sing, a dragon waits to eat our king.


December 25 marks the genesis of war. God invading our world. Hell’s foundations quaking as the ancient terrors of demons awake. The dragon spreading his wings and flying into battle, flames bellowing from his lungs of brimstone and fire.

Philip Yancey writes, “From God’s viewpoint—and Satan’s—Christmas signals far more than the birth of a baby; it was an invasion, the decisive advance in the great struggle for the cosmos.”

Silent night,
violent night,
hell and heaven
meet to fight.

Wars have been waged over money, property, honor, power and oil. But this war—the greatest conflict in human history—is over us.

The dragon sports many names—the serpent, the liar, the god of this world—but perhaps his most fitting name is Satan. It means Accuser. That’s what John calls him later in the chapter: “the accuser of our brethren…who accuses them day and night before our God,” (12:10).

He wields the weapon of accusation. And by it he enslaves us in guilt, shame, depravity, and lies. Each evil is a link in the chains that bind us. And each chain the Accuser wraps round and round our souls. His greatest fear is that we will hear that his enemy has come to set us free.

So, in the little town of Bethlehem a red dragon swoops in to swallow this child who has come to liberate us from accusation. To make us children of his Father. To shatter every chain that binds us to a life of bondage. He must be stopped. He must silenced. He must be killed.


The Christmas story begins the narrative of violence that marks the life of the Liberator. The dragon misses his opportunity in Bethlehem. So he hounds our Lord down to Egypt. Then back to Galilee. He trails him into the desert with tempting words. And, finally, after 33 years of warfare—and repeated defeats—he finally wins.

The dragon who failed to devour the child in the manger swallows the man atop the cross.

In so doing, unbeknownst to this beast, he ate poison. For if anything will destroy an accuser, it is taking freedom into his bowels.

At the death of Jesus there was a great rattling of chains. The links of evil that bound us snapped in two. A world held in bondage to the dragon was, in the death of the Son of God, immediately and irrevocably freed forever from his captivity.

It all began in Bethlehem. Unseen by human eyes, hell and heaven battled over us. And heaven, in the end, stood on the neck of hell and pressed his foot into the throat that had so long accused us. The accuser of our brethren, John wrote, “has been thrown down,” (12:10). He was conquered “by the blood of the Lamb,” (12:11).

All the dragon gets for Christmas is a mouthful of shattered teeth, fiery lungs flooded with oceans of divine wrath, and a sword swinging down from above to chop off the head that spouted accusation.

Merry Christmas! The dragon is dead, the baby is alive, and his victory has set you free.

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.