Christmas is coming!
I don’t know about you, but I think the countdown to Christmas starts far too early. It seems like my summer tan has only just begun to fade when suddenly every shop window is adorned in red and green glitter, and Wizzard are wishing it could be Christmas every day in my supermarket!
By the middle of October, children everywhere have studied the Argos catalogue in detail and written the third draft of their wish-list. I wonder how people can sustain that level of excitement for three months!
On the other hand, maybe it’s not just Hallmark and Debenhams that like to get a head’s start on announcing the forthcoming festive season.
I wonder if you know where we find the first mention of the first Christmas in the Bible? You might think of the angel coming to Mary, or the prophecy in Isaiah about the coming Messiah. But it’s neither of those.
The first Christmas was foretold much earlier than that. In fact, the first people to hear about it were the first man and first woman, Adam and Eve. We find it in Genesis chapter 3, verse 15: ‘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’.
Don’t be alarmed, you did read that right. Genesis 3:15 is the first mention of Christmas! But there’s no big bearded man in a red suit, no reindeer, and no stockings. There’s not even a baby in a manger and the cattle aren’t lowing. How can this verse possibly be talking about the birth of a baby in Bethlehem?
It’s easy for us to forget the true meaning of the Christmas story amidst all the festivity. And that is why Genesis 3 is so important to remember; because it talks about the reason Jesus was born.
God had made a perfect world. He lovingly created it, speaking everything into existence. His perfect servants, Adam and Eve, enjoyed a perfect relationship with God. They walked through the Garden of Eden together, sharing everything, with no shame or fear or doubt. They tended the garden and cared for God’s creation.
But not everyone was happy with this arrangement. Satan, God’s enemy, plotted to destroy the perfect world God had created. He hated God’s relationship with Adam and Eve. He took the form of a snake in the garden and convinced Eve to disobey the only rule God had given.
She fell for Satan’s plot, and Adam followed her into sin. Suddenly that perfect relationship man had with God was ruined by their disobedience.
Sin had entered the world. Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, the whole of creation was tainted. Adam and Eve could no longer enjoy the close relationship they had with God; and all their descendants after them would suffer the consequences of their actions and follow their rebellious example.
We see the effects of sin all around us today, not least in our own hearts.
It seems like Satan has won, doesn’t it? It seems he has succeeded in his mission to destroy God’s perfect world. But that is why Genesis 3:15 is so important. This verse points to the only hope for humanity; it is God’s promise of rescue. These were God’s words to the snake in the garden.
Though Satan has succeeded in drawing Adam and Eve into sin, God is far more powerful than Satan. God curses the snake and sets his rescue plan for creation into motion. And this is where the Christmas story comes in.
God promised that one day a Man (Eve’s offspring) will end Satan’s power over humanity. Through that Man’s own suffering (‘you will strike his heel’) he will win the victory over Satan (‘he will crush your head’).
Jesus Christ is the ‘he’ in this verse. At Christmas time we celebrate the birth of no ordinary baby, but of God’s promised Saviour to the world. God sent his own Son into the world with one purpose. He was sent on a rescue mission. He lived a perfect life, according to God’s perfect plan, and took the punishment for our sins.
Through his death on the cross he frees us from Satan’s enslaving power. He took God’s just punishment for our disobedience, so that he restores the broken relationship between God and man.
Genesis is only the first of many prophecies in the Old Testament about Jesus. The whole of history up to his birth had been looking forward to and yearning for his coming. And even today the whole creation groans as in the pains of childbirth (Romans 8:22) as it looks forward to his second coming.
If we find it hard to wait three months for Christmas day, just imagine what it was like to wait centuries for God’s rescuer to come!
At God’s chosen time, he came, and took on Satan, death and hell, and won the promised victory. ‘God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them’ (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Adam and Eve waited their whole lives to see Satan defeated, but we needn’t wait a moment longer. Christ has come. He has triumphed!
This Christmas, will you accept Jesus as your rescuer, and make it a celebration of the birth of your Saviour?