1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” 12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” 13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”
On Christmas Eve, as we celebrate the birthday of Jesus, we’re celebrating the fulfillment of a promise—a promise which is all that stands between us and death. Death is the punishment for sin, and sin is what Adam and Eve, our first parents, chose over life with God. They plunged our entire race into sin and darkness and slavery to the serpent. We now know both good and evil. But we don’t know them both the same. We know good from afar; we know good as that from which we have now fallen into evil, evil that lives all around us, evil that lives within us, for we are sinners who have fallen under the curse of death and condemnation from the moment we were conceived. Adam and Eve chose death over life. They chose the devil’s side. We are born without a choice, born on the devil’s side, condemned to choose only evil, all the time, and to suffer the consequences for it.
But a promise was made to Adam and Eve—the Seed of the woman would be born. The Christ, the Enemy of our enemy the devil, would come and make war against that ancient serpent and bruise his head by becoming a curse for us, by being nailed to a tree and cursed with our sin. And the fruit of His death on that tree would be life for all who believe in Him, even as the fruit of another tree brought death to all mankind. The Seed of the woman was finally born, four thousand years after His birth was first promised. The angel came from heaven above to earth with the birth announcement, and tonight we celebrate the birth of the Christ and the fulfillment of the promise, because that promise is all that stands between mankind and the eternal death we deserve for our sins. The promised Seed of the woman grew up and deserved eternal life for us, and all who believe in Him are safe forevermore.
10 Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. 12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. 14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
We follow the promise of the Seed some 2000 years from Adam to Abraham, and to his son Isaac, and to his son Jacob, later renamed as Israel. God narrowed down the promise to one family, one line, one nation. And in the vision in which God spoke that promise to Jacob, He showed Jacob a ladder that connected heaven and earth. Christ, born of Mary, is that Ladder. Christ, the God-Man is the one who connects God to sinful man, so that every man who trusts in Him is reconciled to God. The place where the heavenly Ladder first touched the earth was in Bethlehem. And a stable became the house of God. And a manger became the gate of heaven.
2 Samuel 7:5a, 11b-16
5 “Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: “The Lord tells you that He will make you a house. 12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” ’ ”
Again, the promise of the serpent-crushing Seed is repeated, this time to King David, and thus narrowed down to a family line within the nation of Israel, within the tribe of Judah. David loved the Lord and wanted to build a house—a temple—for Him. But the Lord, who doesn’t need man’s service, turned it around and promised to build a house for David—promised to give him a Son—not just a regular son, like Solomon, who would one day rule on David’s throne and build the temple in Jerusalem, but a very special Son who would reign over the kingdom of God forever, who would build the true house of God, which is the Christian Church. The Seed of the woman would come, the Christ would be born, the Church would be built by Him, and Christians will forevermore call the Son of David their Lord and King.
2 The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined. 3 You have multiplied the nation And increased its joy; They rejoice before You According to the joy of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4 For You have broken the yoke of his burden And the staff of his shoulder, The rod of his oppressor, As in the day of Midian. 5 For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle, And garments rolled in blood, Will be used for burning and fuel of fire. 6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
By the time of the Prophet Isaiah’s writing, David’s earthly kingdom had been divided, and most of his sons had proven themselves unfaithful. David’s sons, the kings of Judah, would eventually lead their nation into brazen idolatry and impenitence, and as a result, God would lead Judah into captivity, to a land far away. Isaiah sees the coming darkness. But he sees past it, too, to the coming of the light, to the birth of a Child, the Son of David, the Seed of the woman. He would finally be born. He would finally enlighten the people who walked in darkness as He revealed God’s love to them—a love so deep and wide that He enters our sinful race, to dwell with us in our darkness, to bear our sins and to pay for them all with His own death. It is He who would establish the kingdom of David, not by demanding righteousness and obedience from sinners who cannot render it, but by being righteous for us, and by offering us His righteousness as a covering, as a garment. Unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given.
2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” 3 Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel. 4 And He shall stand and feed His flock In the strength of the Lord, In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God; And they shall abide, For now He shall be great To the ends of the earth; 5 And this One shall be peace.
The coming destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the people of Judah in Babylon would seem like an insurmountable obstacle to God keeping His promise to send the Seed of the woman to David’s house. And yet, Micah foretells that not only would God bring it about that David’s Son would be born somewhere in the world. God would so govern the events of history that the Seed would be carried back from exile in Babylon to the land of Judah, and to the very city of David’s birth, the little town of Bethlehem, to be born there. That little backwoods town would be forever honored by God as the birthplace of His Son, the Ruler in Israel, who was born in time, but whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. And now, the One who was born in Bethlehem has become the Ruler, not only of the Jews who believe in Him, but His name has been preached to the ends of the earth so that we Gentiles, too, have come to know Him and hope in Him as our King, as our Shepherd, as our peace.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
There they are, the offspring of David—Mary and Joseph, each from a different line of David’s children, but each able to trace his and her ancestry back to David. Mary, the virgin-mother of God. Joseph, a righteous, godly man who would be a devoted father to Jesus, even though he himself didn’t father Jesus. Mary believed the angel’s word. Joseph believed the angel’s word. And you, too, dear Christians, have come to believe the angel’s word about this Child named Jesus who saves His people from their sins. His name is proclaimed to us—Immanuel, God with us. God with us in our sin-filled world, and yet He Himself was sinless, so that He might suffer for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. God with us in suffering and in death. God with us in the grave. God with us in the resurrection. And by the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, God with us has united us with God, and we will dwell with God forever.
1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. 8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” 15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
And so it was that the ancient promise was fulfilled. God sent His Son, the Seed of the woman, in lowliness and meekness, into a dark world that is getting darker still. God sent His Son to be born in a manger, to be despised and rejected by men, to be cursed on the tree in order to save us from the curse of the tree. Now God has come to earth. Now God’s righteous decree to mankind in the Garden of Eden, “You will surely die,” has been fulfilled by our Brother Jesus, who surely died for all men and rose again. And God’s promise remains: everyone who believes in Him has eternal life and will not come into judgment.
Rejoice, people of God! Sing with the angels! Come and worship Christ the Lord with the shepherds! Glorify and praise God with them! And you who haven’t been Christians before now, repent and put your faith in the Seed of the woman, born of Mary. For as small and weak as He appears on the night of His birth, He is strong enough to bear your sins, and the sins of the world. He is mighty enough to bruise the serpent’s head and to stand between you and death. Indeed, He has already done it for all who believe in Him. Where His Gospel is preached, there light pierces the darkness. Here light pierces the darkness again on this holy night as we celebrate our dear Savior’s birth. Glory to God in the highest! Amen.