The First Gospel

The First Gospel

Text: Genesis 3:15

This was a special Christmas music program; each choral piece below was paired with a prayer and with scripture. The scripture will be noted with the piece.

  • Congregation: Joy to the World (ANTIOCH)
  • Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming (arr. Kirchner) – Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 11:1-5
  • Magnificat (arr. Getty) – Luke 1:26-38
  • Silent Night (arr. Pentatonix) – John 1:1-5,14,18
  • Angels from the Realms of Glory (arr. Forrest) – LUke 2:8-20
  • Congregation: Angels We Have Heard on High (GLORIA)
  • I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day (arr. Williamson) – Luke 2:14; Colossians 3:12-15
  • O Holy Night (Adam) – Lisa Honeycutt, soloist – Isaiah 53:1-2,4-5; Mark 10:42-55
  • Sussex Carol (arr. Hagenberg) – Isaiah 9:1-2,6-7; Revelation 21:1-7
  • Offertory: Gesu Bambino – Rick Bean, piano; Susan Slade, flute
  • Congregation: O Com, O Come Emmanuel (VENI EMMANUEL)

Today’s sermon will be very brief, but do not judge the subject matter on the length of the sermon. The text is one verse: Genesis 3:15. I want to briefly explain it, share one illustration, and then the music ministry is going to unpack the rest of the story through music, scripture, and prayer.

Here’s the explanation…

God created the world and everything in it, including human beings. He declared it all good, but especially man and woman, who were uniquely made “in the image of God.” And they enjoyed the presence of God, worshiping through the tending of the earth and the keeping of God’s Word. But they turned away from those things and disobeyed God. There was plenty of blame to go around: the serpent tempted Eve; Eve ate; Adam watched silently; then Adam ate. And sin entered the world. The consequence was death, physically and spiritually.

But God was not surprised, not taken off guard. All God’s good creation was not undone in that moment, whether by the serpent or by humanity. Even in the midst of the reckoning God spoke words of promise and hope that something more would happen. The serpent – not merely a snake, but understood to be Satan, the tempter – hadn’t won though he would continue to hurt and bother humanity, “bruising the heel” of humanity’s descendants. But one of those same descendants would “bruise the head” of the serpent/Satan – a more crushing blow of defeat to the tempter of humanity. Scholars call this verse the proto-evangelion, the “first gospel” because it signals God’s plan from the very moment of the Fall. And, in fact, the Gospel of John tells us that the one who would become flesh and dwell among us existed BEFORE creation and before the fall. God was ready; God would not abandon or turn away at the first sign of trouble, but was already laying the plans for rescue, for salvation.

Now there are more than a few questions that this story brings to mind, but I want to focus on one: How come God did it that way? Why did He allow the serpent or sin or the possibility of any of this in the first place?

Here’s the illustration…

When we have children – Heather and I, but all humanity as well – we bring life into this world. The last thing we ever want for our children is to see them suffer or make bad decisions. And the tendency is there to raise them in a bullet-proof and germ-proof bubble. A variation of that is what is called “helicoptering” – following along too closely and jumping in to make every decision for them. But what kind of life would that be? Certainly not a free life. There is this space of freedom and thriving in the area between over-protecting and abandonment and we all try to figure out some kind of approach between those extremes.

I think what put this on my mind was a video on the Today Show this past week. A baby cam in the baby’s room showed the four-year-old older sister moving a chair over to her toddler sister’s crib to help enable “the great escape.” It was cute as all get out, but also a little terrifying. And as I reflected on it in light of this text, it was terribly profound. The parents had put the baby in a place of great safety – a crib with bars on the side. I wonder why no one ever puts bars on the top!? I guess because that would make it a cage. And at some point, many or most toddlers figure out how to climb over and out. And at some point the transition to the big kid bed happens. So parents are constantly finding that balance of safety and freedom. Those parents didn’t have a lid on the crib, but neither did they have knives and guns on the floor. Too much safety and we have our kids in cages, which is wrong. Too much freedom and we put them at risk, which is wrong. And those decisions keep playing out throughout childhood and adolescence and beyond.

It’s not a perfect illustration, but it helps me understand why God didn’t create us and cage us up. Humanity can always go its own way, whether we have outside influence or not. But neither did God abandon us to sin and death. Like I’m sure those parents did, He teaches us what is wrong and right, what is risky and what is healthy, and He loves us more than we can understand or imagine. And so, God stayed after humanity, speaking His Word, sending His prophets, and ultimately, sending His Son into the world, born of Mary, descended daughter of Eve. And that Son would indeed crush the head of the serpent, of the Adversary, Satan.

Listen now as we hear the story unfold through scripture, prayer, and song. Amen.

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