Sermon for Christmas Eve 2016

Where are you? This question posed by God to Adam and Eve was one of five questions asked in our first lesson tonight. Genesis 3 is foundational for understanding our need for Christmas, for the birth of Christ to take away the sins of the world. We encountered two types of questions in this passage. First, the type meant to tempt us and lead us into sin as came from the serpent. Second, the four questions God asked meant for us to search within for where we have sinned to give us the opportunity to repent. This evening as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, let us see how He ultimately in His birth answers these four questions from God to humanity in perfection, paying for the consequences behind each question for all eternity.

Who told you that you were naked?

          The three subsequent questions posed by God all relate to the first question about their location. Adam and Eve after rebelling against God knew they were naked and hid themselves when they heard God approaching. They were “afraid” as we read.

          For Adam and Eve, for all of us, this fear of God due to our sins is related to our location, to our status in life. In sin, we are exposed and vulnerable. We are unable to rectify our situation. Isaiah 9, our second lesson tonight, speaks of the following consequences of our rebellion against God. In sin, we are in a place and status of anguish, contempt, darkness, burdens, and oppression. We need deliverance from this status because we do not have the capability of self-deliverance. This is seen in Adam and Eve trying as much as they could when confronted with questions about their rebellion to hide. The more God asked, the more they sought to hide in tactics such as blame shifting.

          Even though they lived in sin, vulnerable and defenseless, God had mercy and promised ultimate mercy through the eventual defeat of sin and death. To their new found need to cover themselves, Genesis 3:21 states, “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” The Lord did not leave them to their own devices. He provided. He provided humanity His Son Jesus Christ to turn our anguish into happiness; contempt into respect; darkness into light; burdens in relief; and oppression into freedom. The reversal of these vulnerabilities are through Christ alone.

          Further, Jesus clothes us in His righteousness and salvation. Jesus is not aloof. He came to earth as truly human and truly God. As Matthew 1:23 states, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).” Our clothing in Christ is wrapped in the fact that He came for us to rescue us as one of us, suffering all we suffer as well as resisting all the temptations we are incapable of resisting due to sin. This is as we read tonight in Luke 2:10, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.” In Christ with His birth, we no longer need to hide in fear when God comes to ask us questions. He was born as our Savior, the solution to all our fears and vulnerabilities due to sinful rebellion.

          He did not come with greatness, power, and strength. He came as a baby, weak and vulnerable. In such, God defeated sin and death by His power, not the way humanity exhibits power. As read tonight in Micah and Matthew, He is our shepherd to protect us and guide us through this life with us. Yes, He not only clothes us in His righteousness, He also protects us to preserve us through all the trials and tribulations of life. He does this through His  answer to the next two questions posed in Genesis 3.

Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? What is this that you have done?

          After hearing their answer to why they were naked, God asked, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Then, after both Adam and Eve neglected to answer the question through blaming others and not taking responsibility, the Lord ends the deflective comments with this question, “What is this that you have done?”  These questions were very different from what the serpent promised earlier in enticing them to disobey God. His luring was that God was lying to them about what the fruit would do to them. Our lives radically changed forever in a horrendous manner. It was something we cannot fix or turn back.

          As we pray in the Litany in the Prayer Book, we are delivered from this original sin through the nativity of Jesus Christ. It is no longer what we have done, because all we do cannot attain the perfection required by God to redeem our lost and naked status, our state of spiritual malnutrition due to eating what we were told not to eat. Jesus paid for our disobedience and our proclivity toward eating what is unhealthy. It is by what Christ has done.

          Jesus through His perfect life and sacrifice on the Cross turned our status from being relegated to eating eternally condemning food to His eternal life granting food, His body and blood. As we read tonight in John 1:12-13, this access opened to us through the birth of Jesus brings us from the status of darkness and despair to the following, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” While Satan tempted Adam and Eve to “grow” up to become self-sufficient and autonomous; resulting in death and despair without the possibility of self-salvation; Jesus as stated in Romans 5 was our second Adam; bringing us into full communion with God as children, dependent on Him for all things.

          Through Jesus, we are thus given full access to the food that provides eternal life. Jesus in John 6 spoke of Himself and how He provides the sustenance, we could never hope to provide for ourselves. John 6:35 conveys these words of Jesus to us, “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Further in John 6:51, Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” In the face of our disobedience to attempt to feed ourselves, He obeyed perfectly to offer by Faith in Him eternal food. He as we read tonight saved us from our sins, made purification to fulfill all the Law for our sins. In such, we have full access to the Table of the Lord to partake of the Bread and the Wine, assuring us that we are fully sustained by the Body and Blood of Christ for all eternity. In this life, we need assurances of this truth all the time. The Lord’s Supper is the chief manner through His Word of this assurance.

          We are the children of God through the birth of Jesus Christ. These questions asked by God to humanity in Genesis 3 all have their only and proper answer in the birth, life, passion, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Where are we in relation to disobedience, to the questions of have you sinned and what is this that you have done? In Christ, the answer is to repent instead of deflecting, to cling to Christ instead of clinging to self-justification for sinning. We are to place all our hopes not in trying to find a clever way to answer these questions. We cannot pay for what we have done. The history of our sin is an ever-worsening history of giving countless renditions of the same answers Adam and Eve gave in the garden. Yet, the true answer to all of these are simple and basic, firmly rooted in grounded in God’s loving mercy through giving His only begotten Son to redeem us and to make us the children of God. As we read in the lessons tonight, His zeal has done this. In faith in Christ, we repent when we sin, turning to Him alone over and against our sinful need to deflect or blame shift. In such repentance, we receive forgiveness in Christ and He leads us out of disobedience to His peace, justice and righteousness. Where are we? We are in Jesus Christ, fully clothed in His righteousness, fully and eternally fed by His Body and Blood, and fully saved not by what we have done, but by what He has done. Amen.