"Today we celebrate the fulfillment of the promise God made to our first parents so many ages ago"
Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens, The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man
In the beginning God created all things. He made the world and He created a special place in the world, a Garden, where He could walk with man side by side and speak to him as a Father speaks to His children.
God created the human race with all the grace necessary to live with Him in the Garden forever. He gave them all the earth to cultivate and satisfy their needs, and asked only one thing from them in return. In the middle of the Garden there were two trees, a Tree of Knowledge, and a Tree of Life. The man and the woman could eat the fruit of all the trees except the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.
One day a spirit, fallen through the sin of pride and vanity, entered the Garden. Through the subtlety of a serpent, the spirit tested the faith of our first parents. It told them a lie, that they would be like God. But they were already like God for they were created in His own image and likeness. In the end they trusted in the serpent and their own will rather than the will of their Creator.
This turning away caused the loss of the grace God gave them at their creation. It changed their very nature, their life in the Spirit died away and they became a people fallen from grace. This loss of grace would be the source of all the pain and suffering that was to come upon them and their descendants. Some say this left a "God - shaped" hole in the heart of man. But it is also fair to say that it left a "man - shaped" hole in the heart of God.
God put the man and the woman out of the garden and made them a promise that one day He would send a savior who would restore to them their life in the Spirit.
And then man waited. For thousands of years he waited.
Finally John the Baptist announced His coming, the one who would lift us from our fallen state. The savior came; not as a conquering king with a host of angels to drive out the wickedness in the world. Rather, He came as an infant, pouring Himself into our human nature, in order to save us. From this lowly state He would topple thrones and conquer empires.
Today we celebrate the fulfillment of the promise God made to our first parents so many ages ago. Today, Heaven and Earth meet in Bethlehem. God becomes one of us, to lead us back to Him. Today we celebrate the birth of a child whose very name tells us that “God saves.”
It is popular in these days to believe that all religions are the same, that they are all just different paths to the same end. But Christianity is unique. In all other religions man reaches out to God, seeking to climb his way back to heaven. But only in Christianity, does God climb down and reach back.
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at www.DeaconLawrence.org and can be reached at Lawrence@deaconlawrence.com
December 24, 2022