Dear saints awaiting the Advent of our Lord, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
It all was so grand. Adam and Eve in paradise. We know it wouldn’t last. They would eat of that one tree and death would be upon the world. And while you’ve heard this account often and know it, consider what it is even from the beginning that is happening. God does and provides everything for Adam and Eve.
It obviously begins with the very gift of life. Forming our bodies, giving us the breath of life. Truth be told we like to think that God’s gifts are our to control and give to ourselves. It’s why we spend so much time stressing and thinking about our bank accounts or what’s in the fridge and cupboard or what Christmas will bring in our mailboxes and under the tree.
Even the gift of life we take as ours to give. We talk as if life is something that is ours to give and control. So we decide on how many children before knowing any future means or situations, we like to look at timing and spacing as if it were like making a purchase that takes 9 months to manufacture and arrive. We ignore the reality that it is the Lord who gives life, when and how He choses. We don’t usually think about or consider the millions who’ve desired this gift and for some reason or another it is not given to them. We think of ourselves first and foremost and how we can acquire as much as we can according to our thinking.
What if Mary had lived in our day. Few would receive the gracious gift of life as Mary so faithfully had at such a time. Mary would probably be looked down upon by many now. Content to live as a wife and mother at such a young age, with a husband who was a carpenter, not a bad profession but not the most lucrative either. And now, being found with child. She’d be pressured to take a visit down to Planned Parenthood or some other clinic. Perhaps her faithful parents would seek to send her to the Community Pregnancy Center, but certainly don’t want any of her fellow church members to know and certainly not the family members. And Mary’s parents along with Joseph were probably just hoping she wasn’t so thrilled that she’d post it on Facebook or Twitter.
Even amongst pious Christians there might be a tendency to feel bad for Mary. Here she is about get married, been an active part of church through her youth years, and been an overall good girl. Few of us would respond with such grace, “behold, I am a servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.”
We’d probably not even respond with the grace of Adam and Eve. Sinfully, all men may oppose giving up a rib for a spouse, especially without knowing the woman. It’s easy in hindsight to say, “of course I would, marriage is a great institution with many blessings.” Yeah, but how many of us would be so open to God putting us down for surgery and just trust that God is doing it for our good. We worry, we question God, we might even want to bargain some other way to get something close to the intended outcome if it meant not doing anything to our bodies.
Let’s face it, we are not in the state Adam and Eve created, we are sinfully, selfish beings who look out for number one. We fail to recognize that we are servants of the Lord in all things. We complain about our work, our jobs, our responsibilities, and our vocations. We want to do nothing but relax and do the things we find entertaining, because we look out for ourselves. But if you open your Bible, either now or tonight when you go home or tomorrow, open and read verse 15 of Genesis 2. God gave this perfect gift of life, all food, and water needed with all the beauty of creation to enjoy and God gives it to Adam to work and keep it. Even before the fall, God’s gifts needed to be managed and it was man’s vocation to do so.
So Adam names the animals. He goes under and is given the most precious gift of a wife. So Adam must work. He must serve the Lord by serving in working and keeping the paradise provided, he must tell his wife of the Lord’s Word about the tree, he must name the animals. You see, even in the perfectness of creation without sin there is a vocation to work and serve. Work within the garden, work within the family, and work concerning God’s Word.
Adam and Eve received this; though they would doubt and fall away from God’s Word. When it comes to falling away from God’s Word, it’s deadly. That’s because life is only found within His Word. When we fall away from God’s Word it’s still just as deadly. When we fall away in our family vocations as husband, wife, father, mother, child, sibling, or other relationship we fail to love our neighbor in matters of faith as well as earthly life. When we fail to work there may be as much income, which may or may not bother your standard of living, but even if it doesn’t it does change usually how you support the preaching of the Word and charity towards the neighbor. When we look out for ourselves and our desires, when we look only to that which pleases our eyes and our bodies we miss out on the abundant blessings that come in sharing love towards the neighbor. When we think our time is past in sharing what it is God has given us in His Word, the message of His Word gets lost and sin happens as doubt comes from Satan.
Let’s face it, in our society of do some work, retire, and call it a day we fail in many of our vocations. We might serve well within our family but no so much about neighbors and co-workers. We might have done some things before to serve others and serve the church, but what about now, have you no love for those who have served you and given you God’s gifts or for those who still are to receive them that you cannot work in some capacity? Work is a good and gracious gift of God. It’s part of the creation before the fall. And don’t presume to point the finger and say, “well, I’ve done this or that, it’s someone else’s turn.”
Adam’s work was done when he died, a death that would not have occurred if he had done his proper work the first time, the same for Eve. Mary didn’t say, “well, you know I’ve got a bunch of things going on with wedding planning and we’re going on a trip for the census that I need to do laundry for, plan travel arrangements, and budget for lodging and meals… maybe someone else could do it, or maybe in a few months down the road.”
You see, if Mary rejected and didn’t receive what was given to her from the Word of God, she’d die and so would you. This is what everyone had been awaiting, the advent of the promised Messiah. Mary received what was promised, for her vocation now changed to serve God by bearing His Son.
May God grant us repentance and faith to receive His gifts as such faithful servants. May we receive gifts of God as blessings, even when we didn’t desire them or if they don’t fit into our so-called plans. Adam and Eve would eat of that tree and it would be a tree of death upon the world. In this Son given to Mary, the Son of God, the tree of the cross would restore life.
In the midst of all things some things never change. God is still the one providing. He still gives life. Forgiven sinners that you are, you have life in Christ. He still gives you a vocation. It’s never to look after number one, but to look after your neighbor. That’s charity. In fact, the word charity comes from the Greek word charis, which we translate as grace. You are given to work and keep God’s kingdom. Within His church, within His world, within His family, all given to you.
May our advent Lord bring us to repentance and faith that receives His Word with joy, trusts in His gifts, and receives them as He gives. May our advent Lord grant us repentance and faith that works and keeps His gifts faithfully in love towards God and neighbor. May our advent Lord grant us repentance and faith that trusts in Him, not ourselves, in providing means of daily bread, life, and salvation.
And the peace of God which passes understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.