'The Christmas story doesn't begin with a baby in a manger. Rather...
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Gen. 1:1)
And then he created day and night, sky, land, and sea, vegetation, sun, moon, and stars, fish and birds, and animals and humans. And it was very good.
After finishing the work of creation, he rested. It was the seventh day.
"So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation." (Gen. 2:3)
Adam and Eve were the first man and woman God made. They were made in God's image. He breathed his breath into them and made a special garden for them to live in, with just one rule: "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Gen. 2:Would they listen?
There was a serpent in the garden who caused them to doubt God's word. First, the woman, and then the man ate the fruit. They felt shame for the very first time and hid. But of course, God knew where they were and he confronted them, "What have you done?"
And a curse came on the serpent, the woman, the man, and the land. And Adam and Eve were banished from the garden. Life became much harder. The first death occurred when God made them clothing from an animal skin. Thorns and thistles, pain in childbirth, difficulty in relationships all started. All because of disobedience to God--the first sin. The Fall.
Adam and Eve's sin started a chain reaction. Their son, Cain, killed his brother Abel, out of jealousy and anger. Every person inherited this tendency to sin, this brokenness. Generation after generation. Violence and selfishness grew and grew.
"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." (Gen. 6:5-8)
Noah. Noah was different. He listened to God. He trusted Him. And when God told Noah to build a humungous boat (in the middle of the desert), he did it. It took him many, many years.. That boat, called an ark, saved Noah, his wife, their three sons, and their wives. Eight people in all. And it saved all the kinds of animals and birds God had made. From what? A giant flood that covered the entire earth, wiping out everything with the breath of life in it. That's why there are fossils of sea creatures at the tops of mountains!
Forty days and nights of rain and 150 days where the waters covered everything, and then God made a great wind blow and finally, the waters began to recede. When they came out, God put a sign in the sky as a promise that he would never send this kind of flood again: the rainbow! Once again, people began to fill the earth. The Bible tells of the events and people in the time that followed: how God gave people different languages and scattered them throughout the earth, how he made a promise to Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation (the Israelites or Jews), how God, through Moses, delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, how he promised King David that someone from his descendants would always be on the throne as long they honoured God, how he spoke through the prophets that a Messiah would be born (from David's line), and much, much more!
And then the time came. Finally. It was time. The time that we celebrate at Christmas. God became one of us.
Through the Holy Spirit, Mary became pregnant with Jesus. He was born in Bethlehem. Angels told shepherds the "good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10) and they found him wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, just as they had been told. Wise men from the East made a long trip, following a special star, because they knew it meant that a King had been born. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. "And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him". (Matt. 2:11) All of this gave Mary a lot to think about.
But the story doesn't end there. Jesus, of course, grows up. At age thirty, he began His ministry--healing people, casting out demons, teaching, and performing other miracles. Then, he became the ultimate, perfect sacrifice for sin.
"When we were utterly helpless, with no way of escape, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners who had no use for him. Even if we were good, we really wouldn’t expect anyone to die for us, though, of course, that might be barely possible. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." (Rom. 5:6-8, TLB)
He was crucified--died on a cross. And then he rose from the dead, conquering sin and death once and for all.
But if we don't know how or why sin came to be, we don't understand why Jesus came. It's like we missed the beginning of the movie. So, here's the recap...
"Adam caused many to be sinners because he disobeyed God, and Christ caused many to be made acceptable to God because he obeyed". (Rom 5:19, TLB)
Just as Noah was saved by trusting God and going through the door of the ark, so we can be saved by trusting God, and going through Jesus. Not by being good,
Jesus said, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6, ESV)
For salvation that comes from trusting Christ—which is what we preach—is already within easy reach of each of us; in fact, it is as near as our own hearts and mouths. For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and believe in your own heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom. 10:8-9, TLB)
We aren’t saved from sin’s grasp by knowing the commandments of God because we can’t and don’t keep them, but God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours—except that ours are sinful—and destroyed sin’s control over us by giving himself as a sacrifice for our sins. So now we can obey God’s laws if we follow after the Holy Spirit and no longer obey the old evil nature within us. (Rom. 8:3-4, TLB)
That is the good news the angels were talking about. And that is the Grand Story of History.