Where does Christmas begin? There are a lot of answers to that question, depending on how you take it. One could look at it through the lens of history. Last week’s pastoral letter referenced an article from Kevin DeYoung that addressed this topic. Nonetheless, in a real sense, it can be said, Christmas begins in Genesis 3. In it, the serpent, Satan, slithered up to Eve, tempted her to doubt God’s goodness, to distrust his word, and to eat the ‘forbidden fruit.’ After which, “she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6).
Adam, as the federal representative of humanity, disobeyed God, and when he fell, all fell. The LORD had warned Adam of the consequences of disobedience. “But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) Adam’s sin brought curse; the effects of which were immediately felt, as Adam and Eve were ashamed of their nakedness and sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. When the LORD confronted them regarding their transgression, they hid from God and blamed others for their actions. Their waywardness even impacted things like work (it’s going to be laborious), childbirth (it will be painful), marriage (it will include positioning for power), and life (it will end in death).
Soberly, this is an important part of Christmas’s setting. It is important that we come to grips with this context, otherwise the birth of Christ becomes mushy sentimentalism. The fact that Jesus came into this world is an indictment against sinners of just how desperate their condition really is. The Eternal Son, the 2nd person of the Triune God, had to take to himself a true body and a reasoning soul. He had to obey perfectly, die sacrificially, and rise victoriously, because we are in such bad shape. Wrath is what we deserve. Christ was born to take it for his people (1 Thess. 1:10), and this work was foretold in Genesis 3.
The setting of Christmas is one of sin and sorrow, but it doesn’t end there. The LORD told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." (Gen. 3:15) This was the first preaching of the Gospel, and interestingly it was spoken to the Devil, in the presence of Adam and Eve. It’s as if God was saying, “Satan, I am going to send a child of the woman, and he will have his foot on your neck. He will reverse the work your temptations brought.” And to Adam and Eve, “All hope is not lost because of your sin. A heavenly child will come, and through his labors you and your seed will be saved.”
When looking at Genesis 3:15 one should not see it as a ‘Plan-B’ that was required due to Satan’s efforts or Adam’s failures. God’s redeeming purposes were promised before the ages began (Titus 1:2). As the Puritan John Flavel described, the Father said to the Son, “My Son, here is a company of poor miserable souls, that have utterly undone themselves, and now lie open to my justice! Justice demands satisfaction for them or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them: What shall be done for these souls.”
In response the Son says to the Father, “O my Father, such is my love to, and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally, I will be responsible for them as their Surety; bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee … I will rather choose to suffer thy wrath than they should suffer it …” Christmas’s setting begins with sin and curse, but thanks be to God it doesn’t stop there. He promised to save sinners like us. In view of such grace, let us love and sing and wonder at Christ’s incarnation. Let us adore him, follow him, and serve him, for he is the crucified and risen king.