The First Sunday of Advent: Hope

Light 1 Purple Candle

To fully understand the Christmas story we look back to the Garden of Eden. You’ve heard it said that everything you need to know in life you learned in Kindergarten, well, everything you need to know about God’s plan for us and for redemption you learn in the first 3 chapters of Genesis.

God created a beautiful world and formed the man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, and they lived in perfect harmony and relationship with God himself. But, in chapter 3 sin enters the picture when the evil one, Satan, deceives Eve and she in turn causes her husband to sin. God comes to them and begins to hand out the punishments for their sin, and the punishment was death.

He begins with the serpent. The punishment spoke of immediate consequences, “you will from now on crawl on your belly” (Genesis 3:14), but also of future events where there will be “enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel”(Genesis 3:15). Another version says “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.” This is a prophetic word that through Eve will come one who will crush the serpent, the devil. It finds its fulfillment in Jesus who, though bruised by the enemy as he hung upon a cross, crushed his head by resurrecting on the third day and defeating even death itself. “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death.  For he ‘has put everything under his feet’” (1 Corinthians 15:25-27). From the very beginning there is the promise of a Redeemer and redemption from the enemy. This promised Redeemer, Jesus, will have the final say over the enemy who has tried to deceive all of mankind throughout history. There is hope even in the punishment.

The second punishment given was to Eve, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children” (Genesis 3:16). Once again, embedded in the punishment is redemption and hope and future. Remember that God said if they ate of the tree they would “surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Death will come for Eve, but it’s not immediate, because God speaks of the future, of children yet to be born, of redemption.

In the closing verses we read that death did come, but to an animal rather than Adam and Eve. A sacrifice was made of an animal and its skin was used by God to clothe and cover the couple. Sin always leads to death as the book of Romans in the New Testament tells us, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” The writer is speaking of Adam. But, then he speaks of the life that came through Jesus, “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Romans 5:12, 15). Sin came and brought death, but the seed of the woman, Jesus, will come to die and through His death bring life.

Hope was there in the garden that day even as darkness seemingly reigned. Sin had overtaken the beauty of the relationship between God and man, but hope was not lost. Generation after generation that ushered forth from Adam would read these words and hold on to hope that one day a Redeemer would come and crush the enemy, destroy the curse of death, and restore the intimate relationship between God and His creation. One day they would once again dwell with each other. From the very beginning God desired to be in relationship with us. He longed to walk the earth with His beloved sons and daughters and talk with us, fellowship with us. Always this was the plan – to be with us. Sin entered the garden and the picture was altered, but it started the chain of events that would lead to Jesus coming to restore us all to relationship with God.

At Christmas, hope springs anew, as this promised son, born of a woman, was laid in a manger. The Redeemer had come! “God with us,” Immanuel, will once again walk with His people. Hope had arrived to bring salvation from sin for God was, and is, and ever will be a God of redemption and another chance. He extended mercy to Adam and Eve and spoke of hope and a future to them. God longs to redeem our lives and our mistakes and our failures. He can change us too. Yes, there will still be consequences, but there’s hope! We learn that here – in the Garden, and at Christmas. Always, there is hope!

Once again in the course of history it seems as though sin and death have had their way, but Advent calls out to us to hope. Advent says to us “stand up, lift up your head for your redemption is drawing near!” (Luke 21:28). Let hope arise for the Redeemer is on His way!