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The Need for Hope

We are now just two days away from December and the Christmas season is upon us. We’ve got snow on the ground, some of you have your Christmas trees up already, and as we just witnessed moments ago, today is the first Sunday of Advent. And so rather than continuing our study of Samuel through December – I thought I’d take a short break and do a series of Christmas messages.

Quite often I shy away from a lot of seasonal-type messages – just because we hear the same things year after year after year. But this Christmas, I do want to take the next four weeks to tell you the Christmas story – the whole Christmas story. I think sometimes we get gypped and we only hear part of the story. We hear about the angels, about the shepherds, about having no room at the inn, about the wisemen, but we miss out on all the stuff that happens before that.

So I want to start us off today, not with the wisemen, not with the shepherds, not with Mary & Joseph – not even with the prophets that foretold the birth of Jesus. Instead, I want us to start in the beginning. Literally. In the beginning – Genesis 1:1 

Because that’s truly the beginning of the Christmas story. In fact, the entire Bible is the Christmas story. Everything that happens in the Old Testament is a lead up to the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Everything that happens in the New Testament is the result of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So this Christmas I want us to take a look at the big picture. I want us to try to see what God was doing right from day one. Because Jesus’ birth didn’t just happen. In fact, all of history didn’t just happen. God wasn’t just making stuff up as He went along. Before He even created the world, God had a plan. And that plan involved all the stuff that we read about in the Bible – everything from Adam & Eve in Genesis all the way to the end of time in Revelation. God had and still has a plan. 

You may have heard the saying that history is HIS STORY. That’s absolutely true – All of history is God’s story. And believe it or not, you and I are a part of that story. 

So over the next few weeks as we try to look at the Bible as one big Christmas story, hopefully we’ll be able to see where we fit into the picture. Hopefully we’ll be able to see how the whole Bible – how all of history – is a History of Hope – a grand story that each one of us is very much a part of.

Our story begins as I said before, In the beginning. The first few chapters of Genesis really set the stage for the rest of human history. Everything that has happened over the last several thousand years is a direct result of what happens in the first few chapters of Genesis. So that’s where we’re going to start. Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Genesis 1:1

Some could argue that this may be the single most important verse in the whole Bible. It’s absolutely foundational because it tells us that this story is about God. This isn’t a story about Adam & Eve. It isn’t a story about the Israelites. It’s not a story about the human race. It’s a story about God. As we said earlier, history is God’s story. Its not about you. It’s not about me.  Everything that happens in this life is about God. 

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth – This is His story. 

And while I won’t read through all the creation verses, I think most of you know what happens. God sets the stage for His story. He gives shape to the earth and divides the land from the water. He puts the sun, moon, and stars in place – He fills the earth with plants and animals of every kind. 

And then He creates man. And while everything else seems to just be spoken into existence – it seems that God puts a little something extra into creating man. He doesn’t just speak man into existence – He forms him out of the dust of the earth. Look at Genesis 2:7.

“Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” Genesis 2:7

That’s is an incredible statement. That God could just breath into this pile of dust and it would become a living person. Isn’t that incredible? You and I are just piles of dust that God has seen fit to breath His life into. Life is such an incredible gift from God. 

And that leads me the first of three things that I want you to remember this morning. God is the source. If you’re a note-taker, write that down. God is the source.

He’s the one who created the earth. He’s the one who created us. He’s the one who gave us life. He’s the one who sustains our life every day. God is the source of everything we need. We’re going to come back to that statement a little later, so just keep that in mind! God is the source.

So after God creates man, He continues setting the stage for His story. He puts the man in a beautiful garden called Eden and then He lays down a few ground rules. Well, actually there was one ground rule. We find that in verses 15 – 17 of chapter 2.

The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

Genesis 2:15-17

It’s interesting to me that God gave Adam just one rule.  There was just one thing that He was not allowed to do – to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And of course, our focus tends to be on that one rule, but think about it: If there was only one rule for Adam to follow, then Adam had an incredible amount of freedom! 

Right? There was only one thing that he couldn’t do! That means there were probably billions of other things that He could do! That’s incredible freedom! 

And not only did he have great freedom – but God also gave him great authority. In Genesis 1:28, God gives Adam dominion over the whole earth. Man was to be the master over Creation.

28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” Genesis 1:28

To me, that sounds like a lot of freedom and authority! In fact, one of Adam’s first jobs was to give names to all the animals that God created. God put a lot of faith in Adam – He gave him great freedom, great responsibilities, and great authority. 

But God was still to be the authority over man.  Man was not God. God is the source, and thus, God is the authority. And that’s the second thing I want you to remember: #2. God is the authority.

God gives us all kinds of freedom! That’s a major theme that runs throughout the New Testament – God calls us to be free! But we only enjoy that freedom when we acknowledge God as our ultimate authority.

God is the source and God is the authority. Those are two very clear principles we see in these early chapters in Genesis. And as long as Adam operated under those principles, life was gonna be sweet!

But there’s one more principle that I want to make note of: jump down to verse 18 of Genesis chapter 2.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

Genesis 2:18

Now isn’t that interesting? Here was God and Adam – sin hadn’t entered the scene yet, so they had a perfect, unbroken relationship. They were as close as God and man could be – no problems there. And yet God says, “It’s not good that the man should be alone.” 

God designed us to have relationships – both a relationship with God and relationships with other humans. Human relationships are key to life as God intended it. God never intended for us to go through life alone.

And so God makes a companion for Adam. He causes Adam to fall into a deep sleep, He takes one of Adam’s ribs and He creates Eve. And this completes God’s perfect setup. Not only does Adam enjoy a close relationship with God, but now He has another human to share his life with. And in fact, for a time, Adam & Eve enjoyed the closest relationship any humans have ever experienced. Look at verse 25.

“Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame.”

Genesis 2:25

Now when we read this verse, we get a little awkward and feel a little embarrassed. We don’t want to talk about naked people in church. But that’s what makes this verse so amazing. Adam and Eve had no awkwardness at all towards each other. They were perfectly comfortable being known for exactly who they were. They had nothing to hide. Nothing to be ashamed of. No insecurities. They knew they were loved and accepted for exactly who they were. They had a perfect relationship – no fears – only love and acceptance. It must have been amazing!

So that gives us the third thing I want you to remember: That is that God created us for relationships. That’s the point of why God put us on this planet – to develop and enjoy deep, meaningful relationships with both God and each other. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about furthering your career. It’s not about paying off your mortgage. It’s not about achieving fame and fortune. Life is about relationships.

And those three principles pretty much make up God’s formula for a perfect life.

#1. God is the source. #2. God is the authority. #3. God created us for relationships.

With God as the source, Adam & Eve had everything they needed. God gave them life, God gave them an amazing place to live, God gave them delicious food to eat, a job to do – He gave them close relationships – both with Himself and with each other. It was really the perfect life.

As long as Adam & Eve looked to God as the source of all they needed and as long as they recognized that God was their authority (living within the bounds that He had set), their relationships would be sweet and life would continue to be amazing. That was God’s design. That’s how God intended the human experience to be. That’s the kind of life that God wanted you and I to live.

But as you know, something happened. We read about that in Genesis 3 starting at verse 1.

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

 2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”

 4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

 6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. 7At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

 8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees.

Genesis 3:1-8

Now, before we go further, let’s back up and see if we can wrap our heads around what just happened here. This is very significant.

When Adam & Eve ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, three things happened.

They rejected God as the source.

Verse 6.

“The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” Genesis 3:6

Adam & Eve believe that God was keeping something from them – that He wasn’t providing something that they needed. So they decided that they had to become the source. God couldn’t be trusted to provide for their needs – so it was up to them to look out for themselves. They rejected God as the source of everything they needed and took that role for themselves. They would be their own source.

The second thing that happened was they rejected God as the authority.

When they took and ate that fruit, they were deciding that they were not going to live under God’s authority anymore. They wanted to be the judge of what was good and what was evil – what was right and what was wrong. They wanted to decide what they could or couldn’t do. And so they rejected God as the authority and took that role for themselves as well. 

So instead of God being the source and God being the authority – they saw themselves as the source and themselves at the authority.

And as a result of them taking God’s role as the source and as the authority, a third thing happened. Verses 7&8

“At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

 8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees.” Genesis 3:7-8

The moment they rejected God as the source and as the authority, their relationship with each other and with God was broken. What was once the sweetest, closest, most intimate relationships one could experience, was now replaced with shame and fear – with Adam & Eve hiding from each other and from God. 

I can’t even imagine the devastation they would have felt. Up to this point they had only experienced a perfect, intimate, pure relationship – and now for the first time ever they felt guilt and shame and fear.

Everything that God had setup so beautifully – so perfectly, was turned on its head.

  • Instead of God being their source – they would depend on themselves.
  • Instead of God being their authority – they were going to live by their own rules.
  • And instead of enjoying a close, perfect relationship with God and each other, they would damage that relationship and be distant from God and from each other.

And you and I are still feeling the effects of that event even today.

Everyone of us are born with the natural inclinations to be our own source – to be our own authority. Nobody’s going to tell me what to do. I can do it myself. We reject God as our source and we reject God as our authority.

And as a result, our relationships are a mess. This is why we have divorce – this is why we have crime – this is why we have wars. Every relationship problem we experience in life can be traced back to our rejection of God as our source and as our authority.

Think about your own life. What sins do you struggle with? Don’t they come from a belief somewhere deep in your heart that God won’t really provide for your needs? That God can’t fully be trusted to take good care of you? And because of that belief, we reject God’s authority and we act outside of God boundaries for our life – thinking that our way of taking care of our needs is better than God’s way. And as a result, our relationship with God and with each other suffers.

We’re living in a world where God’s design for a perfect life has been turned upside down.

But thankfully, that’s not the end of the story – remember: We’ve only looked at the first three chapters. There’s a whole history of hope to come.

And while we’re going to get into that in more detail over these next few weeks, God gives Adam & Eve just a glimpse of that hope in verses 14 & 15 of chapter 3. After some devastating news about the curse that would be on the earth and the hardships that Adam and Eve would have to endure because of their foolish choice – God then gives them a glimpse of hope.

 Then the Lord God said to the serpent,

   “Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:14-15

Now at first glance, that might not seem very significant. It just sounds like mankind and serpent-kind weren’t going to get along very well after this. But as you read through the rest of the Scriptures, as we’re going to be doing over the course of this next month, you begin to realize that there was more to this statement than meets the eye. This was actually a fantastic promise of hope.

And while I don’t want to spoil the ending of my sermon series, since most of you know how it’s going to end anyway, I’ll give you a sneak peak today. I’m going to let you in on God’s plan to put things back to the way they were.

In a few thousand years after Adam & Eve’s big blunder, God was going to send His own Son, Jesus, to be born to the great great great….. granddaughter of Eve – to a virgin named Mary. And this baby Jesus would grow up and live a sinless life – and allow Himself to be put to death on a cross by evil men. 

The serpent striking the heel in these verses refers to Jesus’ death on the cross. But the crushing of the serpent’s head – would be Jesus’ resurrection – His victory over sin and over death itself.

What God was telling Adam and Eve, was that there was coming a day when He would undo the damage that was done. That He was going to turn things back to the way He had originally designed. Where we would look to God as our authority and as the source of everything we need. Where our relationship with God and our relationship with each other would be repaired. No more brokenness. No more more shame. No more fear. Just the shear joy of experiencing life together.

Seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? But that’s exactly what John describes for us at the end of the Bible – the conclusion of God’s Story. Look at Revelation 21 verse 3. This is what we have to look forward to at the end of the story. John writes:

3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Revelation 21:3-4

We can hardly imagine the day when the backward, brokenness of this world is repaired – and life is again, as God intended it. But that’s the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.

That’s why we celebrate Christmas! The little baby that was born and laid in a manger was the one and only way for God to fix this messed up world. His arrival in Bethlehem was incredibly good news for all the world.

One of the most popular Christmas songs we sing today is “Joy to the World”. And there is real truth in that song! Jesus’ birth is reason for incredible joy to all the world. You may not have noticed this before, but there’s actually a verse in that song that talks about what exactly we’ve been talking about this morning. (I think it’s traditionally verse three and we don’t always sing this one – in fact, I tried to find a youtube song that included this verse, but very few do. But it tells us why we can have joy.)

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found

This is talking about the curse that came upon the earth when Adam & Eve sinned. The writer of this song is expressing how we can have incredible joy because Jesus came into the world to make things right again. To put an end to sin. To put an end to sorrows. To put an end to the curse.

And that’s why we sing “Joy to the World – the Lord is come – Let earth receive her King.” Christ’s birth is reason for incredible joy for all of us who live in this broken, messed up world!

We’ll get into some more detail next week about sin and it’s consequences – and how that changed the course of human history. But also, we’re also going keep talking about God’s plan to restore all things and how He used the Israelite nation to help bring that plan into fruition. 

But for this week – I just want you to remember the joy and the hope that we have because of Jesus.

This week as you experience first hand the effects of this broken world – as you feel the pain of sin and it’s consequences (either through your own actions or the actions of someone else), as you go through whatever sorrow or pain that happens to come your way this week – I want you to remember that there is hope. There is joy to the World – because the Lord has come to undo the damage of sin and to make things right again.

There is coming a day when God himself will be with us.  He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things will be gone forever.

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