The Extraordinary 12/4/16
Genesis 2, Luke 1:26-38
Today we encounter an extraordinary vision of God’s intent for humanity. We also hear of the angel Gabriel’s call to Mary, announcing God’s will for her, one of blessing and importance.
We consider God’s intent for humanity on this second Sunday of Advent, December 4th, 2016. We are gearing up for Christmas, and all that it has come to represent in modern American society. Emotions of grief and loss are heightened, concerns about relatives and where to celebrate holidays can cause anxiety, decisions about gifts, and who to get them for take people off track. Schedules fill up, and pressures related to the end of the calendar year add to everything else. Is this really the most wonderful time of the year?
It can be, to the extent that we welcome Jesus Christ into our hearts and understand ourselves as God intends. How does Genesis 2 awaken us to God’s will for humanity?
It can be hard to consider a world before sin, yet this is the report given in Genesis 2. Scripture proclaims that it was good, yes, very good. God had created paradise, and placed man there to eat and live and experience the goodness of the Lord. God’s intent was for humanity to live in paradise, forever.
Perhaps to our astonishment, paradise did not mean sitting around being lazy. The purpose of paradise was not to be working on your tan, sipping ice teas, waiting for someone to bring your favorite foods. God’s intent was for humanity to work the garden, and take care of it. God implants a sense of purpose, and the goodness of doing God’s work within man.
God’s intent includes freedom for humanity. God speaks that man is free to eat of any tree in the garden. This includes the tree of life. It seems that Humanity could go and eat of this tree, and experience its life. God’s intent is for humanity to know and live freely.
God’s intent for humanity also includes responsibility and accountability in decision making. God warns not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Hebrew word for ‘know’ is a term of intimacy. Eating of this tree would make its eater intimate with good, but also intimate with evil. And this intimacy would bring death. This is perhaps the most universal of verses in Scripture: all of us have known good and evil.
God’s intent is for man to be helped. We were not meant to be alone. We were created for community. This is true of our relationship with God, and one another, as well as the intimate relationship of husband and wife.
God’s intent for humanity to rule over the animals is given before the fall into sin. God’s intent for the animals of creation is that they will have provision and care from man. Adam names the animals. The implication is that he becomes familiar with their patterns, studying them and applying appropriate name. We see here the power of the name, and its potential to shape us and direct our ways.
Without the knowledge of good and evil, man and woman knew no shame. In one of the websites provided in the bulletin, guilt is defined as what is experienced as the result of a broken law, where as shame is the consequence we feel when we face one another. In the garden, humans were able to face each other, and this is God’s intent for humanity.
Next week we come to the part of the story where the knowledge of good and evil comes upon the creation. But today is that reminder that God’s intent for the creation is life giving, delightful, and amazing. We were created for relationship with God, and God’s breath of life within us.
Today’s reading from the gospel of Luke reminds us that God also has intent in a fallen world. We know good, evil, and shame have come to us, but God’s plan was to restore humanity to his intent. This would be accomplished by the perfect human living shamelessly, living perfectly and being atonement for the people. This intent is seen in the second person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ, becoming fully human. It is a miracle from the start.
Mary teaches us that God values humility and trust. She offers herself to God’s service. She will bear the son who is great, the Son of the Most High, the Son of God.
It is Jesus Christ, who in his first advent accomplishes salvation. It is in his second Advent that he will bring us to paradise. By the grace of God, we will one day experience God’s good intent in its fullness. Though, as Mary knows, it did not come without a cost.