Then we turned to Revelations: here the pregnant woman is clothed with the sun and wreathed by the stars. Here the labor is on a cosmic scale. Here the baby is directly threatened by the waiting, gaping, hungry, evil jaws of a fiery dragon. Here the birth culminates in a barely-in-time rescue, sweeping the infant up to the very throne of Heaven. And here the sequence of events triggers a celestial war, with angels and demons and victory and defeat. I don't think most of the staff had read this before, and they were fascinated, laughing nervously. Because in Africa we don't doubt the pervading precence of the spiritual world, and the danger of the devouring dragon.
Both accounts are true pictures of reality: one a picture of that which was seen by human eyes, and one a picture of the unseen events that were occurring in the spiritual realm.
So we were encouraged to remember that what we see here, happening, tangibly before our eyes, is only a partial truth. The long line of patients with their needs represents dozens of lives in the balance, with eternal consequences. The tiny jaundiced newborn who responds to IV antibiotics so painstakingly given represents a victory that might be mirrored in a heavenly battle. The choice to come to work when most of the world around us is consumed in selling their cocoa and buying new clothes for Christmas day represents the kind of courage mentioned in Rev 12:11, the kind that overcomes evil, forever.
A few people in Luke 2 got to glimpse both realities, to see the material events in real time while recognizing their reflected spiritual impact. Mary, the shepherds, Simeon, Anna. For some, because God by grace overwhelmed them with inescapable visions. For others, because they had dedicated themselves to the search, and recognized God's hand in events. I'm praying to become that sort of person, grounded in the hands-on messiness of life and death on the streets and stables of our earth, but able to see the pattern of God's work, and be carried along by faith and hope, the unshakable evidence of things not seen.