How does the Christmas story begin?
If your answer involved ‘wise men’ and mangers, you’re wrong- but thanks for playing.
If your answer involved a morbidly obese creeper (“He sees you when you’re sleeping”? Creepy…) and flying reindeer, you are very wrong, and probably should switch to the non-alcoholic eggnog ASAP.
If your answer involved a carbine-action Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock, you are also wrong- I’m talking about the other “Christmas Story” (though that was a great movie).
No, that’s not how Christmas began at all.
It didn’t begin in a stable next to an overcrowded inn, or the North Pole, or in front of a 1950′s toy store.
It began in a garden.
And while there was no ‘Christmas tree’, it did involve a particular tree.
It began at the very beginning of The Bible, the very beginning of human history.
In the beginning, God created the Heavens, the Earth, and everything in them.
And he did so in spectacular fashion. So much so that even God Himself, the eternal, omnipotent Lord said the creation was not only “good”, but “very good!” (Genesis 1).
In fact, everything was perfect.
All of Creation was in “shalom“, peace.
There was no pain or evil or death.
Along came a Serpent…
The Earth and everything in it enjoyed the shalom of God, until Genesis 3, when “the serpent” came.
This was not simply a literal serpent, of course. The Bible later identifies this “serpent” as Satan, “The Devil”. Though he was originally created by God and given a position of special honor, he desired to overthrow God as Lord over all Creation, thus becoming the great Enemy of God and His people.
As part of the Serpent’s war against God, he seduced our first parents, Adam and Eve, to sin against God by defying His command. At that moment when Sin entered the world, everything shattered. The shalom was broken. It was quite literally the end of the world as they had known it.
Where there had only been Peace, there was now Pain.
Where there had only been only Good, there was now Evil.
Where there had only been Life, there was now Death.
But there was also Hope…
Because God is Holy and Just, and Sin is an act of cosmic rebellion against Him, He prescribed various consequences for the offenders.
But because God is also Kind and Merciful, He did not leave humanity without Hope.
In Genesis 3, God speaks, and though His words were directed to the Serpent, they were not primarily for the Serpent.
They were for us.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers, and he will crush your head…” -Genesis 3:15 (NIV)
This is God’s proclamation that, one day, He will send a Savior who will “crush the head” of Satan, Sin, Death, and their effects, utterly destroying them forever.
“He will crush your head…”
Grammar nerds call this “future tense”.
Theology nerds call it the “Proto-Evangelion”.
Ordinary people like you and me call it something else.
We call it a promise.
That’s what this is.
It’s a promise.
But not just a promise. This is The Promise. It’s the first Promise.
It’s the greatest Promise, upon which all our Hope rests.
It is the promise of “Immanuel, God with us”.
It is the promise of Jesus Christ.
And God keeps His promises.
See, all of human history in general, and Old Testament history in particular, is ultimately telling one single story- the story of God keeping His Promise.
Over thousands of years, time and time again, The Promise is set against seemingly impossible odds.
Abraham, the destined forefather of The Promise, and his wife are ancient, far too old to have a child.
Jacob and his sons, the destined people of The Promise, face famine and drought that will surely be the death of them.
Israel, the destined Kingdom of The Promise, is beset on all sides by wicked nations, far more powerful than they and bent on world conquest.
And on and on and on we could go.
Every time, through various means, from the everyday average to the blatantly miraculous, God intervened.
God was working through circumstances and despite circumstances.
God was keeping His Promise.
This is what we’re talking about when we say that God is “sovereign”.
God is a King- The King- who sits upon the highest Throne.
God possesses supreme power and authority over all people, places, and things.
God is able and willing to insure that all His desires and decrees come to pass- all to the praise of His Glory. (Amen!)
God can keep His promises.
God will keep His promises.
And The Baby in a manger is His proof.
The sound of that Baby’s first cry wasn’t just the sound of “Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men”.
It was the sound of a Promise kept.
God keeps His Promises.
The Hope and Message…
For everyone, but especially my non-Christian friends, I want you to know this- you can trust God.
You can trust God’s promises. And He has promised that “Everyone who calls on the name of The Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). The Name of The Lord is Jesus Christ, God the Son.
This is the Salvation of The Promise.
It is the Salvation that is from Christ alone (God in human flesh), by Grace alone (an undeserved, unmeritable, free gift), through faith alone (trust in His Good Work, not your own ‘good works’).
I pray that you will receive this Salvation.
I pray that God will do what only He can, creating in you a new heart that knows, loves, and worships Him alone.
I pray that you will trust in God.
Because God kept His Promise.
God keeps His promises.
That’s the message of Christmas.
That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.