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Advent Dec 1: Why We Need Advent

• Daniel Baker

Posted in Advent, Devotions

Reading for December 1: Genesis 3:1-25

Reflection: Why We Need Advent

We begin our Advent readings in the book of Genesis, specifically in the Garden of Eden. In our houses filled with candles, white lights, wreaths, and Christmas music, this might feel a bit like the opening to all the Star Wars movies: "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…" The truth is, the Garden of Eden is part of the essential prologue to Christmas. In today's vernacular, it's part of the "back story" that helps us understand this baby in the manger. We need to flashback to this much earlier moment in the story of redemption to make any sense of Christmas. Without the fall in the Garden, Christmas is like the great Answer to a question that is never asked. It's like telling me in math class that the answer is 56 when I have no idea what the problem is. It's handing me a single puzzle piece and then telling me it's the one I need to complete the puzzle. What puzzle? Let's look at Genesis 3 to figure that out.

In the Garden we have a man and a woman. But this time it isn't the poor couple from Nazareth who have journeyed to Bethlehem. It's Adam and Eve. The couple in Bethlehem is not alone because they have their newborn baby. The couple in the Garden is not alone because they are joined by "the serpent" who is "more crafty than any beast of the field" (Gen. 3:1). The baby in the manger will be the rescue of a multitude. The serpent in the Garden will be the destruction of untold millions.

With no fanfare or introduction of any kind the serpent asks Eve a question, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?'" The brazen attack on the Word of God is shocking. Maybe that absolute defiance caught Eve off guard. We don't know. When Eve affirms the question, the serpent increases his attack: "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (3:4-5). The serpent is not only questioning whether God said what he said, but now he's saying that even if God said it, he's both a liar and a devil: He's holding back all that is good and desirable.

Eve takes the bait. She now believes that God's Word is the undesirable fruit, and this bait of the serpent is "good for food…a delight to the eyes…desirable to make one wise" (3:6). She eats and gives some to the silent, passive, compliant Adam at her side.

God does not wait long to respond to the sin of the couple. He appears and begins questioning the couple. Once they complete their blame shifting, he speaks words that echo throughout all human history and even unto eternity itself. The serpent will be "cursed…more than all" (3:14-15). The woman shall give birth in severe pain and desire to usurp the husband's authority (3:16).

Adam's sin has even further-reaching effects. God says, "cursed is the ground" (3:17), which means the entire created universe is now under a blanket of the judgment of God. Whatever beauty we see in the world around us, it yet remains the smeared, dirtied, filthy version.

Far worse, however, is the impact on humanity that results from Adam's sin. Paul tells us, "Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12). All men experience death because all men are sinners, and this is because the "one man" Adam sinned. If we wonder whether God was serious about this, we don't wonder long. Adam's son Cain will kill his own brother Abel. Before long, God will regret even making humanity because "every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5). His response is the flood of Noah. Sin, death, and judgment are everywhere, and it is because of the fall of Adam.

This is why we need Christmas. This is why we need Jesus to come as a baby, live a sinless life, and ultimately die on a cross for sinners. Without Christmas we are left in the sin of Adam and simply waiting to experience the judgment of death and the judgment that follows death for unending trillions of years.

Amazingly, the hope of Christmas is foretold even in the sad moments of the fall. As God speaks to the serpent he tells him, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel" (Gen. 3:15). This "seed" or offspring or descendant is Jesus. He is the one who is born to woman who shall "bruise" the "head" of the serpent, which is shorthand for a complete and total victory over the devil. The devil came to "steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10), and he did that in the Garden. But Jesus came to give us "life" and deliverance and salvation, and he did that through coming to earth as a baby.

As those who share in the sin and death of Adam, we ought to sing God's praises without end because he has provided salvation in Jesus Christ whom Paul calls "the last Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45). All that is destroyed in the Garden is redeemed in Jesus Christ. He is the great Answer to the greatest of all problems.

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap lay sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the son of Mary.


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