Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Sermon for the first mid-week Advent service - Gen 3:1-21

                                                                                                Mid Advent 1
                                                                                                Gen 3:1-21

            When you think of young children, you think of mothers.  Now certainly, we are not so foolish as to forget that only in the one flesh union of a man and a woman can a child be created.  We also know that just as it takes the complimentary contribution of a man and a woman to create a child, so also it takes the complimentary contribution of a father and a mother to raise a child.  Men and women – fathers and mothers – are different, and each brings unique characteristics that are necessary for the healthy upbringing of children.
            That being said, mothers and children are closely associated in our minds.  That is because after the father’s brief contribution, only the mother’s body was created to carry, protect and nourish the growing child for nine months.  Only the mother’ body can give birth to the child.  Only the mother’s body can feed the newborn.  And after carrying the baby inside her for nine months, and then after giving birth, there is a unique bond between mother and child.
            During Advent we are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  Yet the conception of this child was unlike any that has ever taken place.  A young virgin became pregnant as her child was conceived through the work of the Holy Spirit. The virgin bearing the holy child is the focus.  Joseph was not involved in any way.  His “only” role was to take the child as his own, and so include Jesus in the lineage of King David.
            In our text this evening we hear the first Gospel promise.  And we find that here too it is the woman who is the focus. Adam is not even mentioned.  We learn that as a woman had a central role in the Fall, so also she will have a central role in God’s plan of salvation. 
            In the first two chapters of Genesis Moses has described how God made a very good creation. As the crown of his creation, he created man – male and female – in his own image. We learn that God created Eve from Adam as the helper who corresponded to him. They were the perfect compliment for another as they lived in the Garden of Eden God had created for them.
            Before Eve was created, God had told Adam, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” God gave every tree in the garden to Adam.  But he held one back, and in so doing he provided the means by which Adam showed that he feared, loved and trusted in God above all things.
            In our text, we learn that the devil approached Eve in the form of a serpent.  He is a liar and the very first words we hear him speak twist the truth and call God into question as he said, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Eve replied with the information that Adam had delivered to her.  They could eat of all the trees except the one in the midst of the garden, for if they ate of it they would die. 
            And then the devil called God’s word into question.  He said to Eve, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  The devil said that God was holding out on them.  They could be so much more if they would just ignore what God had said.
            Eve saw that the tree was indeed good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise. And so she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. The devil had said their eyes would opened, and they were.  Yet all they saw was that they were naked, and so they sought to cover themselves. They realized that everything had changed because now when God came to them in the garden they were afraid.
            Everything changed for Adam and Eve.  And everything changed for us.  The entrance of sin in the Fall meant the loss of the image of God.  Of ourselves, we no longer know God as God wants to be known. We no longer, by nature, live perfectly according to God’s will. Instead, we are all too ready to listen to the devil as through the world he leads us to question God’s word.
            When God asked the couple if they had eaten of the tree he had commanded them not to eat, Adam blamed Eve and God as he said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” When God said to Eve, “What is this that you have done?”, she blamed the devil as she replied, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
            So God said to the serpent – the devil, “The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.”  And then he went on to add: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
            God said that there would hostility between Eve and the serpent. There would be hostility between her offspring – her seed – and his.  God said that there would be conflict between Eve and her descendants and the devil and his host. 
            “Seed” – offspring – is a collective term. It refers to a group. Yet then God added, “he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  Beyond the mere existence of hostility between humanity and the devil, God declared that a particular descendant of Eve would bruise or crush the devil’s head, even as he himself was harmed in doing so.
            Certainly, Adam receives blame in the Fall.  In fact he receives even more condemnation because he had failed in his role of headship.  God had told Adam his command, and in his vocation of husband, Adam had instructed Eve about God’s Word.  Yet in the moment of temptation Adam had listened to Eve rather than God.  Adam had allowed himself to be instructed by Eve.  He abandoned the role God had given him.  As God said: "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it.’”
            At the same time there is no getting around the fact that Eve was deceived first. St Paul points this out when he tells Timothy, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” 
            However, we learn in our text that the one whom the devil used to initiate the Fall is also the one whom God would use to defeat the devil.  The man is not even mentioned.  Instead God says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.” We learn about the offspring of the woman, ““he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
            Adam – man – was not involved in bringing this one into the world.  Instead, God worked through a woman – through the virgin Mary.  The Holy Spirit came upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her.  The Son of God, begotten of the Father from eternity, became incarnate in her womb. Through the work of the Spirit, Jesus Christ who is true God and true man was conceived within her. For nine months Mary carried him in her womb and nourished him.  And on Christmas Eve she gave birth to him.
            The incarnate Son of God - the seed of the woman, the seed of Mary – went forth to defeat the devil.  He fulfilled the Father’s will, the very words we find in our text.  Sin entered into our lives and world through the fruit of a tree.  Jesus Christ offered himself on the tree of the cross as the sacrifice to redeem us from every sin.  He crushed the devil’s head – he defeated his power as he died for our sins, but then was the raised from the dead on the third day.
            As the offspring of the woman, Jesus has won the victory to give us peace with God.  In his resurrection he has begun the renewal of all things. And so now as we prepare to look back and celebrate his first coming, we also look forward with eager expectation to his second coming.  We look for the day when he will return in glory as the risen Lord who will transform our bodies to be like his, and will make all things very good once again.      

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