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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:A Christmas Promise Fulfilled
Text:Genesis 3:1-24; Luke 1:26-33 (View)
Occasion:Advent
Topic:The Incarnation
 
Preached:2019
Added:2019-12-11
Updated:2019-12-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
“A Christmas Promise Fulfilled
  Genesis 3:1-24; Luke 1:26-33
 
For many children, Christmas means the fulfillment of a promise. Perhaps some of you children have been promised what you really want for Christmas. “It will be there,” you are told, “but you have to wait until Christmas.” Sometimes what you really want is there under the tree. And sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes what you want wouldn’t be what is best for you, and wise parents don’t give in. Or what you want costs way more than Dad and Mom can afford.
 
But there is one Christmas promise – the greatest Christmas promise ever made – that has become a reality. It is also the first Christmas promise ever made. Long before folklore came up with Santa Claus, long before the story of jolly old St. Nick was given, long before Mistletoe, wreaths and all the other decorations of Christmas were made, a promise was given concerning the first Christmas.
 
The promise was made at the dawn of history. The promise was that the devil, who had subtlety introduced sin into Paradise – the Garden of Eden – would be crushed, totally defeated, cast into eternal judgment, unable to ever again bring sin and misery into the world of perfection that God has created.
 
Most of you know the story, and know it well. When the devil tempted Adam and Eve, they sinned and their sin permeated Paradise, indeed, permeated all human history. With sin came fear, a terrible emotion that neither Adam nor Eve had ever experienced before. But now they experienced the fear of seeing that they were unclothed, naked before God and each other. They sowed fig leaves together and made coverings for their nakedness.
 
But the fear of being naked was nothing like the fear of hearing God’s voice calling, “Adam, where are you?” When confronted by God, Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent, and out of that context of deceit, temptation and sin came the first promise of the birth of Jesus.
 
Genesis 3:14 gives the background: “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.’” Until that time the serpent had been the most beautiful of all creatures in the garden. It wasn’t the slithering, forked tongue menace that we envision today.
 
As God pronounced a curse on the devil, He gave the promise of the Redeemer who would come from the seed - the offspring - of the woman.  In Genesis 3:15 God declared, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.  He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
 
The Context of Conflict
 
Here in the third chapter of Genesis, as we look at the birth of Jesus thousands of years before the event, we see, first, that the birth of the Messiah is in the context of conflict. Should we be surprised that there was no room at the Inn?  Surprised that King Herod would sign an edict calling for the death of all male children born in Bethlehem and its vicinity under the age of two?
 
Should we be surprised that Joseph and Mary were broke, that they could barely provide for the child God had given them? Should we be surprised that throughout the course of Jesus’ life, death threats were made against him, with many attempts that failed until the time was right, the time of the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb?
 
No surprise.  Going back to Genesis 3 we see that the birth of the Messiah would be a birth in the context of conflict: It would cause Herod fear for his throne and lead to the slaughter of countless little baby boys. It would rile the teachers of the law and incite the Pharisees to violence.  It would, in the words of faithful Simeon who waited so long, hanging onto the promise that he would see the Messiah before he died, “cause the falling and rising of many in Israel… so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).
 
And the birth of Jesus, born out of conflict, has continued to cause “the rising and the falling” of all humanity throughout the centuries, in every nation of the world.  People either rise in adoration of Jesus as their Savior and Lord. Or, he is their stone of stumbling, as they harden their hearts against the gospel promises that spring from the birth of the Messiah.
 
Two Opposing Spiritual Forces
 
Second, from Genesis 3:15 we see that there are two opposing forces and their followers in this world. The Lord described the opposition of spiritual forces as he said to the devil, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers…”
    
And what do we read about in the rest of Genesis? We read about two opposing forces and their followers.  Genesis 4 records the first murder.  Abel was a follower of God; his faith was focused on the Messiah to come, and his sacrifice was accepted by the Lord. His brother, Cain, was a charlatan who offered a sacrifice without saving faith, based on works, not on grace.  He did not focus in faith on the Messiah to be revealed at the fulness of time. When Cain’s sacrifice was rejected and Abel’s accepted, we read of the first murder. Genesis 4:8: “Cain attacked his brother and killed him.”
 
And the conflict, begun with murder, continued. The followers of the serpent multiplied in great numbers until we read in Genesis 6:5-8 how “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor - (grace) - in the eyes of the Lord.”
     
After the great flood, Noah and his sons multiplied. But the followers of the serpent were among the descendants. They also multiplied to the point where they built the tower of Babel in a vain effort to reach the glory of heaven.  “They said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth’” (Genesis 11:4).
 
And then, after the Lord destroyed the tower of Babel and scrambled the common language into many languages, we read about a man named Terah. He was not a follower of the Lord. But he had a son, a son by name of Abram. God, in grace, called Abram to leave his home country. “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you’” (Genesis 12:1). And for thirteen chapters we read about a follower of the Lord, one who believed God, and his faith was credited to him as righteousness.
 
We read about how he was willing to sacrifice his one and only son with Sarah in obedience to God, because as Hebrews 11:19 says, “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”  In Abraham we have one who envisioned by faith the birth of the Messiah and his sacrificial work, all based on the promises of God. You remember Jesus’ words to the Pharisees, there in John 8:56: “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing My day; he saw it and was glad.”
 
For thirteen chapters in Genesis we read about Abraham, and learn from the New Testament that we who believe in the Lord are considered Abraham’s descendants, the true Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).  Galatians 3:6-7: “Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.”  And Galatians 3:26 adds, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
 
But even in those chapters about Abraham faithfully following the Lord, we also read about those who follow the serpent. Conflict and danger confronted Abram as he traveled to the land the Lord had promised him. His nephew Lot was captured by four kings and their armies; but God gave victory to Abram as he rescued Lot along with all the others who had been captured.
 
There is the account of Sodom and Gomorrah and their destruction, along with Lot’s wife who loved the world and looked back and stands as a stark warning from our Savior’s lips, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).
 
There is the account of Ishmael, Abraham’s son born to Sarah’s servant, Hagar, when Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s ability to provide a child for them.  And from Ishmael we trace the roots of  Islam, the conflict between Christians and Muslims, the persecution of the church, the martyrdom of Christian men and the rape of Christian women, all part of the conflict of the ages, springing from the pages of Genesis, reminding us that in this world there are two paths, two choices, two forces, two groups of followers - those who follow the serpent, and those who follow the Lamb.
 
The Victory of the Lamb
 
Genesis 3:15 teaches us a third truly wonderful truth: The Messiah will be victorious, even though his victory will come at a great cost. The Lord had said to the serpent, “He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
 
One of the great ironies for Satan, an irony that will grieve him eternally in hell, is that by striking the heel of the Lord his own head was crushed. The striking of the heel, of course, refers to the death of Jesus on the cross of Calvary. If ever Satan thought he had been victorious it was when Jesus was arrested and put on trial. Pilate had washed his hands, admitting that he had no basis for a charge against Jesus. Yet, for fear of the crowd, he handed him over to the soldiers.
 
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him (Matthew 27:27-31).
 
Jesus carried the cross toward Calvary.  Overcome with exhaustion, Simon of Cyrene was enlisted to carry the cross the rest of the way. The nails had been placed in the hands and feet of Jesus. He was crucified in humiliation between two thieves.  If ever Satan thought he had the victory it was then. But when Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” and breathed his last breath before the resurrection, Satan was crushed.  He had no victory.  Instead his defeat is eternally guaranteed because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!
 
The Promise of Reconciliation
 
What are some of the results of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? First, because Jesus came into this world in human flesh to fulfill the prophecy – the promise - of Genesis 3:15, we who believe in Him are now reconciled to God, as the curse of sin is removed.
 
In Eden we find Adam and Eve estranged from God, crouching in fear, trying to hide from him.  But because of the birth, life, death and resurrection of the last Adam, Jesus Christ, we who believe in him are reconciled to God.  No longer do we crouch in fear, seeking to hide from him. For the believer, the “fear of the Lord” means having awe and wonder, praise and adoration for him.
        
The reason we are reconciled to the Father through faith in his Son is because Jesus took upon himself the curse that we deserve for our sins. Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
The curse pronounced in Eden was removed at Calvary – removed for all who have saving faith in Christ alone for their salvation.
 
Saving faith, incidentally, is different from what theologians call “historical” faith.  Saving faith is not just an intellectual belief that Jesus truly existed as a human being, lived a life of perfection on earth, was crucified, dead and buried.  Saving faith is a gift of God’s grace where the truths of the gospel are ingrained in our heart and bring about a transformed life, regenerated and indwelt by the by the Holy Spirit.
 
True saving faith is based on intellect; you and I must have knowledge of the truth. But that knowledge must be deeply rooted in the center of our being – our heart. When it is, it affects our whole life, “for the heart”, Proverbs 4:23 tells us, is “the wellspring of life” and must always be guarded with diligence.
 
Those who have true saving faith in the One who came to this earth, truly God, yet born of a woman, truly human, are spared from the curse of sin. For Jesus came with the set purpose of suffering and dying on Calvary’s cross for your sin and mine, for the sins of all, who by his grace, are ordained for salvation and believe in him.
 
Clothed in the Righteousness of Christ
 
Another result of Jesus fulfilling the prophecy – the promise – of Genesis 3:15 is that we are not only reconciled to God through faith in Jesus, we are also clothed in the righteousness of Christ. In Eden, Adam and Eve were naked before God. Their covering of fig leaves could never serve as a proper covering. Because of that Genesis 3:21 describes how “the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”
 
In order to do that, blood had to be shed.  Animals had to be killed.  Death entered the world when God made garments for Adam and Eve. And that death with its shed blood was looking ahead to Jesus.  By faith in him and his sacrifice we are clothed in his righteousness, presented before the Father spotless and without blame. When Jesus fulfilled the promise of Genesis 3:15 he became a sin offering so that we who are sinners would be clothed in his righteousness. In the words of 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
 
Restored to the Tree of Life
 
A third result of Jesus coming into the world and fulfilling the promise of Genesis 3:15 is that the Paradise lost in Eden will be perfectly restored to those who have true saving faith in Jesus Christ.
 
When Adam and Eve sinned, they were banished from the Garden of Eden – banished from Paradise. The reason why is recorded in Genesis 3:22: “And the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’”  And the third chapter of Genesis ends by telling us, “So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”
 
But the Paradise that was lost in Adam is restored to an even greater Paradise – the new heavens and the new earth – through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus, by His birth, life, death and resurrection has restored to us the tree of life.  We read of that restoration to Paradise and the tree of life in Revelation 22:1-3. As the Holy Spirit gives the Apostle John a glimpse of what is to come, he writes: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month…”
 
Through the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ the Paradise lost in Eden will be perfectly restored to those who have saving faith in Christ alone!
 
* * *
 
Those are a few of many reasons why the birth of Jesus brings great joy to those who see past the materialistic glitter of the secular season. Looking beyond the secular season we see with the eye of faith the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, indeed, of every biblical prophecy, “for every promise God has made is ‘Yes’ in Christ.” No wonder Genesis 3:15 is referred to as the Protevangelium, the first glimmer of the gospel. No wonder Genesis 3:15 is often called “The Mother Promise of Scripture” from which all the other promises flow.
 
Jesus has crushed the serpent! He has removed the curse of sin! By his birth, life, death and resurrection he has opened the gates of heaven to all who believe in him! That is the true meaning of Christmas!  Alleluia! Amen!
 
 
- bulletin outline -
 
                        “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.” - Genesis 3:15
                                                                                        
“A Christmas Promise Fulfilled
  Genesis 3:1-24; Luke 1:26-33
 
I. The birth of Jesus is first promised in Genesis 3:15, which teaches:
     1) The birth of the Messiah is in the context of conflict (15a, b)
 
 
 
 
     2) There are two opposing spiritual forces, and their followers, in this world (15c)
 
 
 
 
     3) The Messiah will be victorious, but His victory will come at a great cost (15d, e)
 
 
 
 
II. Because Jesus, born in human flesh, fulfilled the promise – the prophecy – of Genesis 3:15, all who have saving faith in Him are:
      1) Reconciled to God, as the curse of sin is removed (Galatians 3:13)
 
 
 
 
      2) Clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Genesis 1:21; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
 
 
 
 
      3) Restored to the tree of life (Genesis 1:22-24; Revelation 22:1-3)
 
 
 
 
 
III. The Paradise lost in Eden will be perfectly restored to those who have saving faith in Jesus Christ alone (John 1:10-13; Revelation 21-22)

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. Ted Gray

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