Our story begins and ends with Jesus.
In Matthew 1:18 we read “18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[e] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[f] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” From their sins. SAVE them from their SINS. As people who have grown up in the church all of our lives we tend to gloss over that sentence with an assumed understanding. But what does it really mean? Why does Jesus save and from what?
To understand more clearly we have to go all the way back. To the beginning. In the beginning, God. In the beginning God made all things through Jesus, and it was perfect. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, lived in the midst of perfect, enjoying one another and they had an intimate relationship with God, walking and talking with him. There was no shame, no guilt, no fear. Only perfect love. Can you imagine a world where nothing was wrong? There were no terrible diseases like cancer, alzheimer's and HIV. There were no fatal accidents, no famine, no poor, no concerns. No holiday family squabbles and no loneliness. This is the good news.
The bad news is that it all comes crashing down in Genesis chapter 3. Perfection was destroyed when Adam and Eve chose to sin. To break God’s law. To break their relationship with him and to take him off the throne in their lives and put themselves there instead. In one bite they were now ashamed of their nakedness and quickly put together a covering. In Genesis 3 verse 8 it says that Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of God. Why? They were ashamed. They had guilt. And they had fear. God calls to them as he normally would but instead of enjoying an intimate walk with him they experience a separation from God. Sin had broken their relationship and there were real consequences. I can relate, can you? I’ve done the same and I’ve had consequences. I’ve felt the guilt and shame. I've for sure tried to hide.
BUT GOD, even in the midst of punishing their sin, offers Adam and Eve a better covering. God made coverings of skin and covered both Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve’s sin had a deep price removal from their perfect garden and a now broken relationship with their creator, their father, their God and King.This set in motion a whole
series of events for generations to come where sin needs covering. All throughout the Old Ttestament we see the need for God’s covering of sin.
In Genesis 6 God washed and covered the whole earth with water because of the widespread and egregious sin. In Exodus 12 the Israelites needed to cover their doorposts with the blood of a lamb. This blood covering offered them protection from angel of death.
Leviticus is full of specific rules and laws that govern animal sacrifices needed to cover the sins of the people. Blood was required in the process but the animal blood was not sufficient as the sacrifice needed to be continually repeated.
BUT GOD had a better plan. We catch glimpses of this better plan in the Old Testament. In Psalm 32 David talks about sin being forgiven and covered. Isaiah prophesies about coverings. Elijah covers the widow’s boy and he rises from the dead.
The people of Israel needed a washing, a covering for their sin. We also need a covering. But we need God’s covering which is not a result of something we do. We need God’s continual grace and mercy. I need God’s covering. The only way my dead soul can become alive is through God’s moving. Through his work. Through Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection and the resulting victory over sin. The ultimate covering is the shed blood on the cross. The final covering. The only covering that ultimately satisfies God’s wrath. The only way that we, that I, can move from death to life.
My own sin needs covering. The ensuing pain that I have caused my heavenly Father is disgusting and shameful. There is no hope within me to rescue myself. I have no hope outside of God’s ultimate plan. But God, being rich in grace and mercy, has covered my sin and looks at me through Jesus as a new creation!That is my hope, that is my joy, that is my comfort. For by grace I have been saved through faith. This is not my own doing, it is a gift from God, not a result of works so that I don’t boast. I am his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so I should walk in them. Through Jesus we are blood bought sinners, saved by grace, and no longer slaves to fear, shame and guilt, but children of God.
I hope that in this Christmas season, you'll find rest and peace through Jesus as your ultimate covering, just as I have.