From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.
Devotional Text: Genesis 3:1-7, 15
You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.
Welcome to my sermon podcast. This is the first Sunday in Advent, and today I’m beginning a series of short devotionals each day through Christmas. Of course, I’ll continue to podcast my sermons here as well. Each Advent podcast will feature some music from my extensive collection of Christmas records. You’re listening to Jon Anderson, the lead singer of the band Yes, and his version of “Three Ships”—from the amazing album of the same name, which came out in 1985. I might also occasionally feature snippets of audio from movies and TV specials. Regardless, I pray that this new series of devotionals will be a blessing to you.
Today’s scripture is from Genesis 3:1-7 and verse 15.
Where does the Christmas story begin? You might say it begins in the gospel of Matthew, chapters 1 and 2. Matthew tells the Christmas story from Joseph’s perspective and features the evil King Herod and the magi from the East who come following a miraculous star. Or you might say that it begins in the gospel of Luke chapters 1 and 2, which tells the Christmas story from Mary’s perspective—which features Elizabeth and Zechariah, the parents of John the Baptist, along with shepherds abiding in the fields—this is the scripture that Linus famously reads in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
You might even say that the Christmas story begins in John’s gospel, which tells us that in the beginning the Word—that is, God’s Son, the second person of the Trinity—was with God and the Word was God, and that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Although the Word is eternal and had no beginning, John tells us, the “Word becoming flesh” happened when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ was conceived in Mary’s womb and was born at Christmas.
But the Christmas story doesn’t begin in these three gospels of the New Testament. It begins much earlier. In fact, it begins… near the beginning—in Genesis 3.
It begins when Satan, in the guise of a serpent, tempts Adam and Eve to doubt the goodness and trustworthiness of God and his Word. He tempts them to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, thus becoming like God himself—or so he led them to believe. With that, the first couple fell into sin—and the rest of us human beings followed along with them. As a result, all of have sinned, Paul tells us in Romans 3, and fall short of the glory of God.
And unless God takes the initiative to save us, we are lost in our sins. We deserve death, God’s judgment, and hell—that is, eternal separation from God.
But… there is good news… even in this tragic recounting of humanity’s first sin. Look at verse 15: In that verse, God is talking to the serpent, who is Satan—and here he is speaking figuratively:
I will put enmity between you [by which he means Satan] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he [referring to this offspring of Eve] shall bruise [or crush] your head, and you [meaning Satan] shall bruise his heel [meaning the heel of the woman’s offspring].
This is the earliest announcement of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Please notice: We expect scripture to say something like, “the offspring of the woman shall bruise the heads of the offspring of the serpent.” Or “the children of the woman shall bruise the heads of the children of the serpent”—since this will take place at some point in the future. But that’s not quite what it says. Instead, it says, “This son”—which is singular, not plural—“this son who will be born at some point in the future—will crush the head, not of some descendant of the serpent, but of the serpent himself—the very same serpent who led humanity into sin.” This verse looks ahead to Christmas, when Christ comes into the world and winning a decisive victory over Satan. But notice this victory will come at a cost to the Son—the serpent will “bruise his heel”—but because of the resurrection, the Son will not ultimately be destroyed.
Of course, Christ won this victory in a most unusual way. And he won it in part because of a tree… What does scripture say about Jesus: “cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree” (Deut. 21:23). The tree that tempted Jesus was the cross. But the outcome of Jesus’ temptation was very different.
God told Adam and Eve, “If you obey my Word concerning this particular tree, you’ll live forever.” Of course, Adam didn’t obey, and he died—and the rest of humanity died along with him.
God told Jesus, “If you obey my Word concerning this particular tree—that is, the cross—you’ll die a god-forsaken death and experience abandonment by me.” But Jesus, unlike Adam, obeyed his, even though it meant death, so that the rest of humanity might live forever.
Ultimately, this is the good news that we celebrate at Christmastime.