Christmas 2017 1. Creation: God Makes
Genesis 1: 1 I’ve been fascinated and frustrated about something for many years. Have you noticed how companies have shrunk the size of their products while keeping the packaging and pricing the same? • Bars of Soap. Have you noticed that there is now a chunk of soap missing from each bar that you buy? • Peanut Butter. Reduced the standard size by adding a concave dimple in the bottom without changing its height. • Ice Cream Containers. When consumers started complaining, some manufacturers explained that the smaller size fits better in the freezer! It’s almost like they’re doing us a favour! By the way, when you see “Same taste, new look,” on a label its likely code for a downsized container. “Healthier” may simply mean there are fewer calories because there’s less product in the packaging. “Greener” might mean they used less plastic in the smaller size and “portable” could mean that it’s now small enough to fit in your pocket! • Cereal Boxes. These boxes now feel hollow but look the same on the shelves. Sounds like what’s happened in our culture related to Christmas. Have you noticed that the observance of the birth of Christ has shrunk in our nation? The depth is now gone and been replaced with seasonal sentimentality. Actually as Christians, we’re in danger of shrinking Christmas as well when we focus only on the first 2 chapters of Matthew and Luke and then only during the month of December. We need to go deep and wide and long. That’s my aim in this series. Christmas doesn’t begin with the manger and it doesn’t end with the wise men. Christmas is rooted in Creation and finds its fulfillment in the final Consummation. The best way to understand the Bible is not just looking at small sections but by seeing the overarching narrative. God’s plan stretches from Genesis to Revelation – all 66 books are woven together by a single storyline. “…the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you’re doing. It’s about God and what He has done…The Bible is most of all a Story…There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell His story. And at the centre of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers His name.” Tim Keller: “Many people think of the Bible as a book of moral teachings with stories sprinkled through to illustrate the teachings. But it’s a lot better than that…the Bible is a single story with teachings sprinkled through to illustrate the story.” While the Bible is a story, it doesn’t start with “Once upon a time…” but rather: “In the beginning God.” It’s much more than just a nice novel. The Bible is an inspired and inerrant collection of narrative material like prayer, poetry, prophecy, parables, songs, laws, commands and ethical codes of conduct. The story of Scripture can be told in 6 acts: 1. Creation 2. Catastrophe 3. Covenant 4. Coming 5. Church 6. Consummation We could say it like this: The Story of Scripture is about the Glory of the Saviour. These passages from the gospels demonstrate the overarching unity between the 2 testaments. John 1: 45 “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” John 5: 46, 47 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” Luke 24: 27, 44, 45 “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself…Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” I pray the Lord will open our minds to understand His Word today! Friends, history is really “His-Story” and it’s headed somewhere. The Bible tells 1 unfolding story of redemption set against the backdrop of creation. Turn to Genesis 1 and follow along as I read the opening verses. I’ll insert the Hebrew name for God as I read: “In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of Elohim was hovering over the face of the waters. And Elohim said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And Elohim saw that the light was good. And Elohim separated the light from the darkness. Elohim called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” This name for God is used more than 2,500 times in the Bible, 32 times in the first chapter of Genesis alone. Elohim derives from the word El, which comes from the word for “strong.” Specifically, this name means that He is the strong Creator God - He is creatively powerful, completely sovereign and gloriously great. There are at least 3 foundational building blocks in this opening introduction that the rest of the Bible story is built upon.
1. Elohim is Eternal This is a declaration that God has always been; He’s had no beginning and He will have no end. Deuteronomy 33: 27 “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Genesis 1:1 is a simple declaration that Elohim exists, and does not provide an explanation or an argument for His existence? The Bible just assumes that He is. Psalm 14: 1 “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Only those who are foolish doubt God’s existence. Listen. The story of Scripture begins with God, not with us because it’s all about His glory.
2. Creationism is Correct Because God alone is eternal, that which is created is not. The Hebrew word for “create” means “to create out of nothing.” In Latin the phrase is ex nihilo. He spoke and it was created. He works through His word. Psalm 33: 6, 9 “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host…For he spoke and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.” It is no accident that the first thing God wanted us to know about Himself is that He is the Creator. The whole story of Scripture is rooted in this fact, from Genesis to Revelation. Revelation 4: 11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” The early church viewed the doctrine of Creation as the beginning point of theology, and a bedrock biblical belief. Its importance is summed up at the very beginning of the Apostle’s Creed: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth…”
3. The Lord Made Light Creation is in right relation to the Creator. Everything is good. Adam and Eve enjoy the pleasure of paradise as they live in harmony with God, with each other and with creation itself. Then the serpent tempts Eve and she begins to doubt God’s goodness and fixates on that which is forbidden. Shame immediately follows their sin. Because they are suddenly self-conscious, exposed and their conscience is now activated, they try to cover their sin and their shame. Human beings have been trying to manage their sin and shame ever since. They used to enjoy friendship and fellowship with God, walking with Him in the garden, but sin and shame have now caused separation, so they try to get as far from God as they can. We’re still trying to hide from God, aren’t we? I love this - even though they are guilty, God comes looking for them! He’s not out to clobber them but to offer reconciliation. By asking Adam a question, He’s giving him the opportunity to come clean. Only God can provide the covering we need. The emphasis is on God’s initiative, as He takes care of their shame. God continues to seek out sinners! At its core, that’s what Christmas is all about! Because these coverings were made of skin, we know an animal sacrifice had been made. Can you imagine the horror that Adam and Eve felt when they witnessed death for the first time? God slaughtered an innocent animal to provide a covering for them. In that very moment they saw how much their sin really cost. For the first time in history, suffering, sacrifice and innocent blood is shed so that human sin might be covered and community with God could be restored. This is the foretaste of atonement. God is setting the stage for the Passover, and later for the death of Jesus as the final sacrifice for our sins. The message was clear: God can only be approached by way of sacrifice because our sins have separated us from Him. Christmas is all about how Christ covers our curse by dying in our place on the cross! When we believe and receive the sacrifice of His Son we are clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The story of Scripture is about the glory of the Saviour. John 1: 1 - 5 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
1. The Infant is Infinite For many years I thought that Jesus got his start when He was born. Jesus Christ has always existed. Jesus is before the beginning of time. John 8: 58: “Before Abraham was born, I am.” He is eternal, or infinite because He has always existed. This passage immediately reminds us of the opening words of Genesis 1: 1: “In the beginning God…” In Greek culture, logos, was that which gave meaning to all things. John is using a term that everyone would be familiar with and yet he expands its meaning. Since a word is an audible or visible expression of a thought, Jesus perfectly revealed what was going on in the mind of God. He’s the bridge between God and us. With the birth of Christ, the eternal broke into space and time. Jesus Christ existed in a face-to-face relationship with the Father. Jesus was not only in the closest possible fellowship with God, the “Word was God.” We don’t have time to explore the majestic doctrine of the Trinity, but just to say that Jesus is not a creation of God, but is God Himself. The Infant is Infinite.
2. Christ is the Creator Colossians 1: 16, 17: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Jesus is both the creator and sustainer of all things. “Jesus Christ was the Creator long before He became the Saviour.”
3. The Lord is Life and Light The story of the Bible begins with physical darkness in Genesis 1. To dispel this darkness God said, “let there be light.” Spiritual darkness spilled into our world in Genesis 3 and can only be removed by the Lord who is life and light. As the light, Jesus shines into the darkness, and those who have not yet received Him are still in the dark and cannot understand Him. Many people today do not grasp the real meaning of Christmas. It’s because the world in general has no place for Christ. The story begins in Genesis 1 where we learn that Elohim is eternal, creationism is correct, and the Lord made light. In John 1, the narrative continues with these truths: The infant is infinite, Christ is the creator, and the Lord is life and light. Recapture the Wonder and Majesty of Christmas The world was created and now we must be recreated. 2 Corinthians 5: 17 “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” If you received Christ you have entered into the greatest story of all time.
Let’s prepare our hearts for communion. Let’s look back, way back to creation and even before creation; and then let’s focus on the cradle and then the cross and finally push ahead in our minds to the final consummation. Jesus has come. He will come again. He came in the stable and then died on the cross. He rose on the third day, ascended into heaven and is coming again! Communion takes us back to Creation when God spoke through the silence with “Let there be light.” Do you lament how Christ has been taken out of Christmas in our culture? Listen, the way to keep Christ in Christmas is for us to let the light of Christ shine through us! 2 Corinthians 4: 7 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” These small cups remind us that the Infant is Infinite, Christ is the Creator and the Lord is Life and Light. He lived and He died for us, in our place, to restore us to right relationship with the Father and with others. With the Bread we proclaim His life and with the Cup we proclaim His death.