CHRISTMAS DOESN'T START IN THE MANGER OF BETHLEHEM, BUT IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN
Christmas comes every year, on the same day, like clockwork. So, why do so many people put off selecting gifts for their family and friends? A study conducted in the last year found that 79% of Americans purchase presents in the final two weeks before Christmas and 51% wait until Christmas Eve! Some people have no problem procrastinating until the last possible moment to decide what to give.
However, God didn’t delay. He chose our Christmas gift thousands of years in advance.
Christmas doesn’t start in the manger of Bethlehem, but in the Garden of Eden. God’s glorious creation lasted two chapters until sin slithered in and ruined everything. The moment Adam and Eve took the first bite of the forbidden fruit, sin sank its teeth into the heart of humanity, turning image-reflectors into godless rebels. In Genesis 3, the universal consequences for their disobedience are announced: pain, struggle, conflict, curse, and death. The beautiful communion Adam and Eve enjoyed with God was broken as they were sent away, separated by their sin.
But all was not lost. Hope was planted among the thorns of judgment. In Genesis 3:15 (NIV), God announced to Satan,
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.
We commonly think the first mention of the gospel in the Bible appears in the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But God’s “good news” is announced here in the first chapters of the first book of human history. Mingled among this account of the effects of sin, we see that God knew the perfect Christmas gift for us, to be delivered centuries later. While this gospel gift was wrapped in mystery, we could know several things for certain: The gift would be a person, the gift would engage in conflict, the gift would suffer loss, and the gift would ultimately win. Thousands of years later, the angels proclaimed “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). The gift God chose for us at the beginning was now ready to be unwrapped at the birth of Jesus.
The Perfect Gift
Sometimes people give Christmas gifts to replace something that has been broken or lost—a wristwatch with a cracked crystal, a favorite jacket left on the bus, a stereo speaker ruined in the rain. God planned the gift of the gospel from before the beginning of the world because it’s in the beginning that we discover what was broken and lost.
In the beautiful and majestic account of creation in Genesis 1–2, three things stand out. First, human beings were specially designed to reflect the image of God. While everything else in the world was “good,” Adam and Eve were made “very good”—the best of the Creator’s handiwork to mirror the majesty of God in the world.
Second, man and woman lived in an unhindered relationship with God. God communicated with them, gave them responsibility, and blessed them with the best of His creation. Adam and Eve lived in a perfect place and in perfect communion with God who walked in the Garden. Third, God reigned supremely. God wasn’t just creating a world but was establishing a kingdom. His command “to be fruitful and multiply” was in order to continually populate a kingdom of citizens who would rightly honor God with their lives. As King, God had the authority to give any command and to judge any command-breaker.
Three things—reflection, relationship, and reign—were in the beginning. And these three things were broken or lost because of sin. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, their godly reflection was shattered, physically, ethically, emotionally, intellectually, interpersonally. Nobody is as God designed them to be. In addition, their relationship with God was severed. Just as Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden, so sinners today are unable to enter the holy presence of God. And, when Satan challenged the command of God and tempted people to sin, people turned away from God’s reign. His rightful rule over our planet and its people was rejected.
So, what would God do with a reflection, a relationship, and a reign that were broken? Choose a gift that would restore, redeem, and recover what had been lost. Before the first Christmas was celebrated, God chose the perfect gift for people. Jesus’s mission was to transform sinners so that they once again reflect the glory of God, reconcile sinners to a right relationship with God, and move redeemed people to surrender their lives under the reign of God as King. This is not just good news, but the best news ever!
Getting the Gift of God
God has offered a gift—forgiveness and new life through His Son Jesus Christ. And you don’t have to do anything to earn it. The Bible affirms, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). Just as you receive a Christmas gift by opening your hands, you receive the gift of Jesus by opening your heart in faith. In other words, the person who believes Jesus is God’s Son, who has paid the full penalty for their sin, will be saved.
While we can’t do anything to earn the gift, we should do something with the gift we receive. When our spouse appreciates the gift of a sweater, they wear it. When our children appreciate the gift of a bike, they ride it. We value a gift by putting the gift to good use. If Jesus has been given to reform our reflection of God, restore our relationship to God, and reestablish the reign of God over our life, then these things will become increasingly true. Jesus leads us to greater transformation into the image of Jesus, greater affection for the person of Jesus, and greater submission to the supremacy of Jesus. How is this gift of God at work in your life today?
About the Contributors
David Daniels (DMin, 2007) has been lead pastor of Central Bible Church in Fort Worth since 2005. He is the author of Next Step Discipleship (2016), Next Step Church (2016), Wonder: Advent Meditations on the Miracle of Christmas (2021), and An Unexpected King: Meeting the Messiah in Mark’s Gospel (2022). David and his wife, Tiffany, have three children and two grandchildren.