Keep in mind, I’m not letting Adam off the hook in what follows here. I shared the picture with this blog yesterday on Facebook. It isn’t a manly picture. It’s two women drawn in a kind of medieval fashion. But the message of this artwork goes beyond gender. It is the message of Christmas. On the left, Eve, the first woman, the one who listened to the serpent. The one who took the first bite of the fruit that was forbidden. The one on whose shoulders rests the blame for mankind’s fall.
She carries with her a burden that no woman has since experienced. For the rest of her life, regret was her companion and self-contempt her theme. With every thorn, every thistle, every pain of childbirth, the remorse is fresh again. The picture shows the serpent coiled up her leg. Every step she took after the fall was on earth that was turned against her and her husband, Adam. God held Adam responsible, but her mind was fixed on her own actions and she took the entire blame upon herself. She was inwardly dying a little more each day. The only hope she could grasp was in words that weren’t even spoken to her. God told the serpent that a Redeemer would come.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15
The woman on the right. A young woman, pregnant, but yet she shouldn’t be. A virgin, but the whispers in her family, in her village, the accusations against her betrothed, Joseph, the rumors and slander that she is a whore, were tearing at her heart. She trusted the Lord. She celebrated that she was chosen.
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-49
But the words hurt. The slander takes a toll. Though she has been chosen for this glorious honor, she is consequently humiliated. She will live with a certain stigma, a particular reputation among some, for the rest of her days. Joseph would share in this as well, and in some ways she would be often tempted to blame herself for many of his troubles.
Both women have been humbled. Both women suffer. Yet the picture is one of incredible hope. In Eve you have the kind of humility that comes from being a sinner. In Mary you have the kind of humility that comes from being sinned against. These are two women of humble estate. The sinner. The sinned against. Christ comes to redeem them both.
The birth of Christ is Eve’s redemption. He was born to reconcile sinners to God the Father (Romans 5:10). Eve’s actions may have separated us from God, but Christ’s actions would reconcile us. Everything that was undone by Eve would be restored by Christ. And Christ would crush the head of the serpent once and for all.
The birth of Christ is Mary’s redemption. She needs redemption regardless because she was born, like all of us, a sinner. But she was also sinned against. If there was ever a woman in history who was unjustly accused, it was Mary. Who would believe her? God sent an angel to convince her own betrothed that she was telling the truth (Matthew 1:20). Christ came to redeem the sinned against. When we are sinned against, we naturally wish to lash out, to retaliate and respond in kind. Jesus redeems us to the degree that even when we are sinned against, we can be filled with God’s grace toward our enemies.
That was all set up for the rest of the article. 😉
Today, as I have pondered the depth of this picture, my own sin has surfaced. The things that I am ashamed to even speak of with God, even knowing that he already knows, drive me to run and hide from him just like Adam and Eve. I hide in things like work, sometimes I hide in hobbies, and I’ve been known to try hiding with a marathon of binge watching on Netflix. But more than anything, I hide behind a kind of facade that looks, smells, tastes, and feels like everything is peachy.
So do you.
Christmas should undo my facade. Mary carried the hope of the world within for nine months. She raised him into adulthood. She watched him mature. She beheld him in his young adulthood as he worked and dealt with people. And as rosy as that sounds, her experience was full of suffering. Not only was her reputation destroyed, but the birth of her baby heralded the slaughter of many young sons in the region of Judea (Matthew 2:16).
Christmas is a train wreck. It is messy, despite the sanitized version that we present. But the good news is that because Christmas is a messy, blood ridden, reputation ruining, scandalous affair, my own personal train wreck of a life can be outed for what it is. Jesus was born in a mess, lived through a mess, died in a mess, and rose again so he can redeem my mess.
Eve’s redemption is found in the train wreck of Mary’s ruined reputation. Mary’s redemption is found in allowing herself to be ruined for the glory of God. Both women ruined and humbled. Both women redeemed. Jesus Christ’s birth heralds to us that redemption is only for those who have are undone and are willing to be undone even more.
He didn’t come for the healthy. He came for the ruined. He’s not interested in rescuing the strong. He’s interested in raising the dead.
Christmas is a time where we hope for peace on earth and good will toward men, but peace and good will don’t come unless men and women are willing to face their ruin. That means Christmas, taken seriously as a celebration of Hope, is a day of reckoning. The sin of Adam and Eve, and the rest of humanity needs a Savior. That’s why he came. That’s why he was promised. This is what we celebrate on Christmas.
Christmas shouldn’t be morose, but as you celebrate today, remember that your sin and my sin, the sins of our fathers before us, and the sins of our children after us is the reason Jesus was born. He is our hope for redemption, and that is truly what makes Christmas a day of joyous celebration.