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Dec 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 2, 2012 – Genesis 3:8-19

Christmas Candles

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.
Genesis 3:15

INTRO: I need your help this morning

When people talk about the “Christian year” (or “church year”) what do they mean?
– the church created a “Christian” calendar that divided the year into seasons
• the Christian year begins with Advent on the first Sunday in December

Christian worship is divided into two primary forms:
– “high” church worship observes a formal, set order (for Episcopalians, The Book of Common Prayer)
• there is a strong emphasis on priests, symbols, sacraments, and rituals
• “free” church worship de-emphasizes these things and claims to have no fixed form
○ however, free churches usually do fall into fixed routines
– the Christian year belongs to the high church tradition (Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, etc.)

What is “Advent”?
– the coming or arrival of Christ – but an arrival that spans time
• a first arrival and a final arrival and, in between, a day-to-day arrival
• some believers who are suffering or dying live with an awareness of his moment-to-moment arrival
– in high churches, each Sunday of Advent a candle is lighted
• Why? Since Jesus’ first coming:

The Light shines in the darkness (Jn. 1:5)
The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light; / And those who were sitting in the land of the shadow of death, / Upon them a Light dawned (Mt. 4:16)

• that’s what we’re trying to say with Advent candles
○ in the world’s darkness – in your darkness and in my darkness, a light now shines

The theme of first Sunday in Advent: Prophetic announcement of the Messiah’s coming

These are found scattered throughout the Hebrew Scriptures
– the first hint of Jesus’ coming, that I know of, is in Genesis 3

Who can tell me something about the Hebrew word Elohim?
– this is the word translated God in Genesis chapter 1
Impersonal – God at work with elements and forces
– he speaks elements into existence, then into conglomerations, and then into quasars, and stars, and planets
• later, he speaks to others and we have no idea who they are, “Let us make man in Our image . . .” (1:26)
• eventually, he speaks to humankind – a generic male and female (1:28-30)
○ this is not a conversation – they are silent
○ he speaks to them as he did to galaxies, oceans, and plants
– finally, God stepped back, surveyed his work, and concluded that it was all “very good”

Who can tell me something about the Hebrew word Yahweh?
– Yahweh is the personal name of God (Ex. 3:13-15)
– Genesis chapter 2 replays the creation of humans, but gives us a close-up view
• after verse 3, every reference to God is Yahweh Elohim
• what does this add to the story? It introduces a personal tone
○ referring to God by name creates the possibility of meaningful relationship
– for the first time, God sees something in creation that is “not good” (2:18)
• the male was not a whole person – he needed a counterpart, a companion
• Adam woke up, saw the woman, and for the first time a human says something worth recording – a poem
○ “This one is part of me” (2:23)
– a perfect universe – everything is connected, everything is harmonious
• the humans live in intimacy — with God, nature, each other (2:25)

Another person is introduced to the story in Genesis chapter 3 – the serpent
– we learn two things about him:
• he’s crafty and he wants to ruin the humans’ relationship with God
– when he talks to the woman about God, he reverts to Elohim
• the conversation between the serpent and the woman is the only place in this chapter where God is simply referred to as “God”–i.e., without the inclusion of his name
• this third-person reference to God creates an illusion of distance
○ as though they can talk about God behind his back
○ with this sense of distance, the serpent convinces the woman to disobey God’s command
– that day, the universe was broken — like a glass globe knocked off a shelf
• instead of intimacy, the humans suffer alienation — from God (3:24), nature (3:17-19), and each other
○ this was the first insight of their new knowledge (3:7)

This is the “curse” – a life of alienation

It comes to specifics, it is also a life of conflict

I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed

– so the story doesn’t end here in Genesis
• the tragedy that came over the world is not permanent

From this point on, history is going somewhere
– there is a plot to this story – an ongoing conflict
• ultimately, the serpent would sustain a worse injury than the woman’s seed – a fatal head-wound
○ not that humans escaped unharmed – we get “bruised”
○ “Yeah, but you should see the other guy” — thanks to Jesus Christ

Is this an ancient promise of the Messiah?

Not specifically
– it is about the struggle between humankind and the offspring of evil
• but soon afterward we discover a process of selection
○ of Adam and Eve’s children, Seth is selected — then Noah — then Abraham
○ if we follow it–say through the genealogy of Luke–this process eventually brings us to Jesus (Lk. 3:23-37)

This fits the context of the prophecies that came later in Israel’s history
– the promises were made as a response to a crisis
• even in this primitive story, Eve’s future Child is the answer to a problem, the resolution of a conflict
• out of this tension there came a promise
– humans were suspended between Yahweh and the serpent
• this situation had to be set straight

The curse itself contains the answer for undoing it — to break the spell
– in this hour of judgment, a solution was already in the works
– the world had been poisoned by evil, but Christmas would be the antidote

Dad once preached a sermon entitled, “Did the Angels Lie?”

They announced to the shepherds, “Peace on earth”
– was the coming of Jesus an end to war?
• to crime? domestic violence? hate?

Forget world history – what about the history of the church?
– does it reflect the best that God can do?
– or does it look more like Jesus’ failed project?

I think we should be aware of the self-righteousness hidden in these questions and observations
– if I can call Christian history into question, I’m implying I’m better than that
– and this is exactly the real issue we have to face individually

I don’t have to account for the world or even for the church
– I only have to account for myself
– and the truth is, I have contributed to the pain and evil that stalks the earth
• I’ve added to the excess of anger
• I’ve lied and betrayed the trust of others
• I’ve played into greed and ego

But that is not where my story ends
– I have also changed – or at least I’ve begun the process
• I’ve experienced redemption and (some) transformation
• I’ve corrected some wrongs, relieved some suffering
• and I’ve helped a few others to make similar changes

Frederick Buechner, “The great promise is that to come to him who was born at Bethlehem is to find coming to birth within ourselves something stronger and braver, gladder and kinder and holier, that ever we knew before or than ever we could have known without him.”

I don’t have to explain why we haven’t seen “peace on earth,”
• I only have to explain why I have no peace
• why I have run from Jesus and his offer of peace with God
○ which translates into with my world, with others, and within myself

CONC: We know several families for whom this year it will be their first Christmas without Mom, or Dad, or wife, or husband

They will be feeling the darkness of our broken world
– what can they do?
• what can any of us do?

We can light an Advent candle in our hearts
– this shopping season, “holiday” lights may shine from malls and neighborhoods,
• but it will be the light of Christmas that illuminates our path guides us home
• home to our Father who calls us and through our Savior who lights the way


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  1. Ed Northen / Dec 5 2012

    I had always avoided Advent as a form of worship, my rebellion against established religion. But presently I am finding a great deal of inspiration by using themes of “advent” in times of solitude, silence and meditation. One of the themes is light come into the world, of course to do any good it must move from a theme to an personal encounter otherwise Advent remains a religious form. The purpose of the encounter is to restore, transform us not for ourselves only but for the world.

    Here is a poem I wrote on the Advent theme of light.

    Awaiting Illumination

    In the solitude
    Of winter morning’s

    I await
    The entering
    Of light

    Wait like Israel
    After four centuries
    Of silent night

    The heavens
    With exaltation

    With good news
    Mute Zachariah
    Has herald it

    The firmaments
    About to split
    Illumination is imminent

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Dec 24 2012

    Thank you, Ed.
    I appreciate the way your poetry awakens my soul to the lovely mystery of Christmas, almost lost or buried every year by all the other stuff, both religious and commercial.

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