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Take Heart: Advent Week One

The following is taken from Take Heart: Advent Devotional Series published by the EFCA.  This advent season, the EFCA is focusing on the stories of taking heart and giving back with charitable giving. You may make an online gift here.

Read Part I – Take Heart: Advent Intro


 WEEK ONE

From Very Good to Enmity, Pain, Curse and Banishment: Creation and the Fall (Genesis 1-3)

takeheart

In the last devotional focused on our theme verse for Advent, we learned three important truths. First, there is tribulation in this world. Second, Jesus is our peace, and the peace He provides is not like the peace the world gives. Third, the response to Jesus is captured in Thomas’ confession of faith that Jesus is the Lord and God, and since our prayer is to see and savor the Savior, we join the confession in declaring, my Lord and my God. But if we are to understand the person and work of Christ, the culmination of the story, we need to understand the whole story. We need to go back to the beginning of God’s creation and the subsequent fall of Adam and Eve. This is vital to understand if we are to grasp the story of Christ and Christmas.

Creation

In words related to those we read at the beginning of John’s Gospel (“In the beginning was the Word”), God’s story revealed and recorded in the Bible begins in this way: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). This begins the creative work of God, which culminates in the creation of man and woman, Adam and Eve, who alone are created in the imago Dei, the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28). When God had completed His gracious and wondrous act of creation, He pronounced that it was all “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

Adam and Eve are in a unique relationship with God their Creator, and they were given a mandate, not only in the original act of creation, but also as He placed them in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15-17). Their calling was to God and to work and keep the garden (one could say their true calling is to worship and obey). In this pristine environment they thrived, both as husband and wife, and as worshipers of God (cf. Gen. 2:25).

Fall

In chapter 3, an intruder enters this pristine setting and undermines everything about God and His plan for humanity. The serpent denies God’s infinitely perfect nature, His ways and His Word. He is a usurper of God in every way. Sadly, Eve and Adam believe the lies, defy and rebel against God and His authority, and the story becomes profoundly distorted. Sin is now a part of the story. That which had been “very good” and harmonious, now becomes fallen and cacophonous and discordant, with immediate results.

God gave them everything to eat and enjoy as they worked and kept (worshipped and obeyed) the garden. But they were commanded not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Now having eaten, this would be their new existence. The results were immediate: Adam and Eve were naked and ashamed, which they tried to cover (Gen. 3:7), they hid from God (Gen. 3:8), and they blamed and criticized and did not take responsibility (Gen. 3:12-13). They were cursed, punished and banished from the garden and unhindered, intimate communion with the Father (Gen. 3:13-19). And the effects of sin only got worse. Cain killed Abel (Gen. 4:8) and everyone dies, marked by the recurring refrain, “and then he died” (Gen. 5:5, 8, 11, 14, etc.).

The same remains true today. Consider the number of wars occurring around the world at present. Think of the racial tensions in our country. Reflect on the number of divorces happening. Consider the estrangement among family members. This becomes particularly pronounced during family gatherings at holidays. All of these issues reflect the ongoing implications of the Fall.

Promise

God was perfectly just, holy, righteous and loving in punishing sin and sinners. Had He done nothing beyond punishment, it would not have changed any of God’s attributes. But God is also gracious and merciful. He, in His sovereign good plan, determines to destroy sin, to reverse the effects of the Fall, and to restore life to humanity. In the midst of God’s curses, He states the promise of the gospel. In His punishment against the serpent, God’s gospel shines 7 brightly: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15 NIV; cf. Rom. 16:20).

This is referred to as the protevangelium, the first gospel. We observe that this first gospel consists of Eve’s offspring, that this offspring will crush the head of the serpent, and will be the one through whom life is given, the one in whom all the original intentions – and more – of God’s very good design and purpose for His creation will be realized. Please note, immediately after God announces the curse, with the promise in the midst of it, God graciously provides clothing for Adam and Eve, through the shedding of the blood of an animal (Gen. 3:21), a picture of what will occur in the death of Christ (cf. Heb. 9:22). In the banishment from the garden, God also makes a statement that there would be no way back to the garden apart from His own appointed means (Gen. 3:24). His way is exclusive, and it is the only way of life. Any and all other ways will result in death.

Questions

1. Why is it important to get the story right if we are to understand the story of Jesus and Christmas?

2. What are the implications of the Fall to the story of the Bible? What about creation? What about your personal life?

3. With the promise fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming, what hope does the promise of His second coming give you, and how does that affect your life between the two?

4. God punishes sin with death, offers forgiveness, and grants salvation. Why do people struggle with this truth?

5. God’s salvation in Jesus is unique and exclusive. How do people respond to this? What difference will this truth make in your preparation for Christmas and in what you say about Christmas?

Hymn:

Of the Father’s Love Begotten

Prayer

Father, our Creator, thank you for creating all things very good. In the midst of the Fall, we know you could have left us in our sin and you would have remained God without compromising your nature. Yet, because of who you are, you made a way for sinners to have sins forgiven and to experience peace with you. In the work of your Son, thank you for making us new and for the promise you will make all things new. Forgive us when we take your grace and mercy for granted, when we think there may be other ways to attain peace with you, when our lives do not reflect the true purpose of life with you – to worship and obey. May our lives reflect this purpose this Christmas season, and may we boldly proclaim the true meaning of Christ and Christmas embedded in the larger story of your redemptive plan. We pray this in the name of our Creator and Redeemer, for the sake of the Son to the glory of the Father. Amen.

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