You're probably familliar with the story of Jesus' birth: baby Jesus is born in a manger and grows up to save the world. But the real Christmas story began in Genesis at the fall of man.
In the book of Genesis, we learn that God created Adam and Eve, the first two people on earth. He also created a beautiful garden filled with all sorts of fruit trees for them to enjoy. In the middle of this garden, he placed two special trees.
- The Tree of Life gave eternal life to whomever ate its fruit.
- The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil gave death to whomever ate its fruit.
Adam and Eve broke God's one rule. They each took a bite of the fruit from the forbidden tree. They both suffered the eternal consequences.
The Hebrew word for the "death" mentioned in this story actually means a spiritual separation. The most precious part of humanity died that day. After Adam and Eve were forced to leave the garden, God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” (Genesis 3:22)
At first it seems cruel, not to let them have a second chance and keep them from eternal life. But now that humans were tainted with sin, God knew that letting them eat from the Tree of Life would force His beloved creation to live in their sin forever. So "He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." (Genesis 3:24)
Fast forward to Luke 2. Jesus is born, and later he is presented in the temple. There was a righteous man in Jerusalem at that time named Simeon and "it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah." (Luke 2:26) The Holy Spirit told him to go to the temple, and when he saw the baby in Mary's arms, he held him and said,
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,Simeon was ready to die now that he had seen the Messiah he had been waiting for. He recognized Him even as a baby. Take a look at what he says to Mary:
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)Simeon was declaring that Jesus is the sword that guards eternal life. Just like you couldn't get to the Tree of Life without going through the sword, we can't get to God without Jesus. Now that God offered His Son to us, we don't need the tree because God is the one who gives eternal life. Because our sins are forgiven through Christ, we can live forever without becoming slaves to our sin. In John 14:6, Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Too often we focus on having a "cute" Christmas. The tree is decorated, the stockings are hung by the fireplace, and we sing carols about baby Jesus in a manger. This is all fine, but sometimes we need a reminder that Christmas isn't something quaint -- it's a time we celebrate the magnificent birth of our Lord, the sword that points the way to eternal life.