Welcome to a new adventure, or maybe it’s really an old adventure! At any rate, it’s a new adventure for this blog.
I’ve decided it’s time for me to get in the Christmas spirit as I seem to be having an unusually difficult time doing that this year. But I don’t just want to get on board with all the decorating and baking and gift wrapping, though that is certainly part of the celebration. I want to get in the true Christmas spirit, the one where I celebrate with full vigor the birth of my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
And so, for the next three weeks, Monday through Friday, right up to Christmas morning, I hope to take us on a journey to Bethlehem. I’ve not mapped this thing out or anything (something any smart traveler would do!), but I believe God will show me day by day the direction for our journey. If I start meandering off on rabbit trails, you just let me know. But I’m going to try to take us in 15 days from the very beginning of time to that quaint little village of Bethlehem where our God entered the world in flesh.
I hope you’ll join me on this trail as we explore how much our God loves us and why that love propelled Him to send His Son into this world on such a holy night. And please, please, please feel free to dialogue with me on this path. I’d love to hear your insight, reflections, and questions.
Now, let’s get started on this new trail!
This morning I read the first three chapters of Genesis, where it all began. I was struck by how much precision, purpose, and love went into the creation of all that is. God…the pre-existent, self-sufficient, triune One…created the world and all that is in it with the power of His Word. He crafted man lovingly from the dust of the earth and fashioned woman with a specific purpose from a rib taken from the man.
Then our God tenderly placed that woman and man in a beautiful garden, gave them purpose and meaning, provided their every need, and just plain out loved on them. From the scriptures we gather that the Creator God of this universe visited intimately with His creatures and they basked in His affection.
The scripture tells us God created man in His own image. He created us with the ability to think, feel, reason, and create. He gave us work to do that had significance. He set us up for transparent, soul-bearing, meaningful fellowship with Him. And that is exactly what Adam and Eve enjoyed for a period.
Then we come to Genesis 3:10 where everything changed. Oh, you noticed I skipped over the part where Adam and Eve sinned against God (disobeyed) by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden. Well, we all know about that tragic event don’t we? And indeed that is where the change actually initiates. But I was struck this morning by the change in circumstances that followed that transgression.
In Genesis 3:10 we read, “He (Adam) answered, ‘’I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’”
Here we find the first negative emotions expressed in the Bible. Adam was afraid (of the God who loved him, created him, spent meaningful time with him, provided everything he needed?) and he was ashamed (because he now realized the body God had created was unclothed, unhidden?).
That’s what sin did. It created, for the first time, a barrier between God and the man and woman He had so lovingly created. No more transparency, no more meaningful fellowship, no more trust, no more ease of relationship.
There were, of course, multiple consequences to man’s actions: man would have to labor in his work, sweating and struggling against the very earth that had once been his haven. Woman would have pain in childbirth and long for meaningful relationship with her man, only to find frustration there. The earth itself would begin to rebel. And that one sin would now perpetuate with a sinful nature inherited by every newborn baby. And death had entered the picture.
Some things died immediately: man’s sweet relationship with His maker, the harmony between man and the rest of creation, the innocence between the man and woman, the perfection of God’s creation. Other things would begin a slow painful death and eventually the man who had been formed from dust would return to dust.
But our God, the God who is love, would not stand for this. And so He informed the disobedient, undeserving man and woman immediately of a plan that He had formed before the foundation of the world.
Speaking to the serpent that had tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit, God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall crush you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:15) Everyone knows a bruised heel is a short-term inconvenience, but a crushed head is a fatal blow. The end was spelled out to Satan, the serpent, and hope was given to the guilty man and woman.
And so, on the first leg of our journey to Bethlehem, we are reminded that Jesus wasn’t just born that starry night so we could celebrate Christmas with fun songs, green and red decorations, eggnog, and some gifts from Santa Claus. He wasn’t even born so we would have a good reason to go to church or sing inspiring carols or give to the needy.
Jesus was born so He could eventually restore what God had created to begin with: a mutually satisfying, gloriously transparent, and loving relationship between man and his Maker. We would no longer have to be afraid of or ashamed before our God. We could once again rest in His love and find purpose in His presence.
As we sit down and reflect on this first section of our trail to Bethlehem, let’s thank our God for loving us so much that He would not be willing to leave things as they are. He wants us back. Generation after generation, men have tried to figure out how to reach up to a God we somehow know we need, but to no avail. Over 2,000 years ago He reached down to us by sending His only begotten son to be born in a humble stable. It was a gift and it’s still available to all who will accept it. And that is Christmas in a nutshell.