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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Celebrating the Christmas Promise

Celebrating the Christmas Promise



Last Sunday our Sunday school lesson was about the story of creation in the Bible.  (Genesis 1-3)  Scripture says that in the beginning God create an amazing sinless world, with no death, no disease, no sorrow, and no sin – a paradise.  Scripture says that everything that God created was very good.(Genesis 1:31) Since we have always lived in a fallen world and have always known a world with problems and sorrows, it is hard for us to imagine what the world God created before the fall was really like. Things were so different back then before sin changed everything. The world God created was full of love and harmony.  Adam and Eve trusted and loved God and that was what God wanted. God wants all of His children to love and trust Him. The animals did not kill and eat other animals before the fall, and Scripture describes a future time in heaven where the animals will again not hunt or kill anymore. (Isaiah 11:9)  


God put the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, in a lush paradise called the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had bodies that would never get hurt or sick or die.  And God created humans in His own image, with the ability to make decisions on their own.  Obey or disobey Him if they wished.  God loved Adam and Eve with fatherly love.  He came and walked and talked with them each day in the garden.  God loves to walk and talk with his children. And God told Adam and Eve that He loved them and that they could eat all of the fruits and vegetation in the garden, except for the fruit on just one tree.  They were told not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that was growing in the middle of the garden.  God warned them that if they ate the fruit of that one tree, they would die.


One day Eve is strolling by herself in the garden, and along comes Satan in the form of a snake or serpent.  You notice Satan, the tempter, catches Eve when Adam is not there.  Eve might be more vulnerable by herself, and Satan wants to take advantage of her when she is most vulnerable.  The tempter tries to catch us when we are vulnerable too.


The Bible says: “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.  And the serpent asked the woman (Eve), ‘Has God indeed told you that you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”  And the woman (Eve) answered the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden.  But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God has said ‘You shall not eat it, nor touch it, lest you die.’”  Then the serpent answered the woman (Eve), “You shall not surely die.  For God knows that in the day you eat that fruit your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”.  (Genesis 3:1-5)


We know from the Bible that Satan is a liar. (John 8:44)  Satan told several big lies to Eve right there in the garden. Satan lied to tempt Eve into not believing what God had told her. His lies  caused Eve to question Gods’ honesty. Satan even implied that God didn’t want her to eat the fruit because He didn’t want her to become “wise” and “be like Him”.  If Satan could plant doubts in Eve’s mind about whether God spoke the truth or not, then it would be easier for him to seduce her into eating the fruit of the tree– and disobeying God and sinning. (To sin is to disobey God)  Does Satan tempt us this same way? 


 Eve had a choice of who to believe and she believed Satan instead of God!  Satan’s lies to Eve, caused her to want the wisdom she thought the forbidden fruit would bring. The desire to become “like God” also seemed attractive to her. Why would God keep that from her?   Did she envy God for being God?   Want to be like Him?  Eves’ definition of being “wise” was human self-rule, not dependency and trust in God.  Scripture says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (Proverbs 1:7)


 Satan guided Eve closer to this powerful tree in the middle of the garden, luring her on.  Eve quivered as she tiptoed around the mysterious tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden, gazing up at its’ translucent ripe fruit.  Satan was right there beside her and he wasn’t letting up. The fruit on this magnificent tree glistened with moisture and became more and more attractive to Eve the longer she looked at it.  She kept listening to the snake’s soft seductive voice over and over in her ear encouraging her to take and eat.  Take and eat. What could it hurt?  Take and eat. You want it so badly, you know you do, he hissed on and on in her ear.  Was she falling under his spell?  Was she lusting after this fruit because God had commanded her not to have it?  Desiring it because it was wrong?  Now she was shaking all over.  Shaking with desire for this bad fruit. And this desire kept growing bigger and bigger in her heart.    


Eve’s hands were trembling as she picked the forbidden fruit off the mysterious tree.  And her whole body was trembling as she ate the fruit.  While she was eating the fruit she felt something strange happening to her!  Something definitely was changing, she knew that!  But what was it?  She had never felt pain before, but now her body was in pain.


 Then Adam came back and Eve ran to him and told him all that had happened. She told him about the wisdom they would get by eating the fruit.  That they would be like God and also that the snake had promised them that they would never die, as God had said they would.  Would Adam believe Satan’s word over God’s?  He had a choice to make whether to trust God or to believe Satan. Eve repeated her story and then stood there holding the fruit out for him to take.  But Adam just stood there shaking his head and wondering what to do -  obey God or to listen to his wife.


 Adam must have been influenced by his wife because when she gave him the fruit, he took it and ate it. Immediately after Adam ate the fruit, he also knew that something had changed in his life. It seemed at that terrible moment the universe shifted!  Paradise was lost!  Right away both Adam and Eve became ashamed that they were naked!  (Genesis 3:7)  They had never been ashamed or embarrassed of their nakedness before!  But now they felt like they needed a covering.  What had changed?  Were they not good enough on their own now that they had sinned?  Are we not good enough on our own?  Is that why we cover our nakedness with clothing?  Do we need a spiritual covering (Jesus) as well?   Adam and Eve sewed leaves together to try to cover their nakedness. 


About this time God came to walk and talk with Adam and Eve in the garden like He always did each afternoon.  Adam and Eve had always run to God when He came, thrilled to be with their loving Father.  But this time instead of meeting their God and walking with Him, Adam and Eve were afraid and ashamed and ran away and hid.  Sin had separated them from their God.  


Where are you? God called out to Adam and Eve.  He knew where they were and what they had done!  God knew and God was brokenhearted.  He knew that Adam and Eve would die, and all earthly creatures would die too. Nothing would be the same again on His beloved earth. Death and decay had come into God’s magnificent world. Scripture says that sin causes death. (Romans 6:23)   And in that dreadful moment Adam and Eve lost their immortality and began to die.  Death would be passed on to their children and all their children’s children-and to all humanity.  Passed on as a curse on the whole earth’s environment and on to the animals and birds and fish and plants and all of God’s beloved creation.  (Romans 8L20, 2 Peter 3:4-7, Isaiah 45:18) 


God killed an animal and made clothing to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness.  Perhaps this was a lesson pointing to the Lamb of God who would be a covering for sin. Scripture says: “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.”  (Hebrews 9:22)  God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden and then He sent angels to guard the garden and keep Adam and Eve (and all humans) from ever going back.  (Genesis 3:24)   If Adam and Eve returned to the Garden of Eden they might eat of the Tree of Life growing there in the garden, and live forever.  Live forever in their sin?  God did not want His beloved children to live forever in their sin and misery.  Some things are worse than death. 


There was one ray of hope, one promise of grace spoken by God on that dreadful day when mankind and all creation were subjected to the curse of sin.  God loved His children and His world too much to leave it dying and without hope.  Adam and Eve had gotten themselves and all creation into a terrible mess, but God promised to rescue them. While God was speaking to the snake (Satan), He spoke these words. “I will put enmity between you and the woman.  And between your seed and her Seed.  He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”  (Genesis 3:15) 


Bible scholars interpret this Scripture to be a promise.  The promise is that the Seed of the woman would someday crush the Serpent’s head.  That woman in particular would play a part in undoing the effects of the fall into sin. The woman would have children and one of her children would be the “Seed” that would crush Satan’s head and take away sin.  The “Seed” being the Lord Jesus who has trampled Satan at the Cross.  In its’ wider sense, the human race will eventually completely triumph over the Evil One (the snake, Satan) through the Seed of the woman. (Jesus).  (Romans 16:20)  


All the richness and mercy and sorrow and love and glory of our loving God’s redeeming work with humans is here in miniature.  God promises Adam and Eve, the first humans on earth, that He will bring a Redeemer from the Seed of the woman.  This Seed (Jesus Christ) from the woman (Mary) will be completely human yet divinely begotten.  That serpent of old, called the Devil would war with the Seed. (Revelations 12)  Even as the Serpent struck at His heel, His foot would descend crushing the Serpent’s head.  In Christ’s life and death this Scripture was fulfilled.  By His death and resurrection Jesus Christ has defeated and made a public spectacle of the powers of hell. (Colossians 2:15)


This word of hope, spoken by a brokenhearted God at the beginning of human history when His children had fallen into sin and death, was the first messianic promise made to humans, with many more promises to follow. And when the baby Jesus (the Seed) was finally born of Mary (the woman), the angels rejoiced in the heavens and proclaimed the good news and the great joy that was to be for all people of good will, that the Savior had been born in Bethlehem.


  The Christmas star shone in the sky over Bethlehem and the wise men followed the star to greet the new King. We celebrate the good news that we will live forever without our sin through Jesus who fought the battle for us.  We look forward to the time when the curse of sin over the earth will finally be broken and we celebrate the fact that we have been given eternal life through Christ our Lord. The angels rejoiced when the Savior was born, and we rejoice along with them each year at Christmastime.  


































































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