First Thursday in Advent

First Thursday in Advent        SEED   5

Scripture: Genesis 3:14-17 [First Testament prophesied]

14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this, you are cursed more
     than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
      groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring (her seed).

He will strike your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

16 Then he said to the woman,

“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
    and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
    but he will rule over you.”

17 And to the man he said,

“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
    whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.

Matthew 1:18 [New Testament, prophecy fulfilled]

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Some thoughts:

     You recall the context of this very familiar passage of Scripture. Adam and Eve had just rejected God and decided to go their own way. The result was immediate separation from God with deadly consequences to follow. In their expulsion from the Garden, having lived in the very presence of their Father, they were given a word of hope even in the curse. God, in his mercy and grace, would provide a way back to communion with himself. He would take the form of a human; at great cost, he would become one of us.

     The boldfaced verse fifteen in the above passage has an unusual phrase. When we think of conception of a baby, the “seed” comes from the man to fertilize the “egg” which comes from the woman. (As you see, this is quite ‘technical’!) But the wording used here is that “her seed” comes from the woman and is fertilized by the Holy Spirit, (Mt. 1:18) hence, Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy through Mary, making it clear that Joseph was not Jesus’ birth father, God was. “Her seed” is her offspring, referring to Christ.

     For his coming to be efficacious, God had to be involved in the conception the infant God/man. At the same time, that child must be fully human in order to redeem humans. A purely spiritual being, like an angel for instance, would not solve the human problem of sin, for there would be no personal identity with human beings, no empathy, no understanding of what it is like to be human.  So, God took a human egg of a virgin girl, though not sinless, and by the overshadowing power of the Holy Spirit created a perfect human, a holy Redeemer, fully God and fully human. The same “overshadow” word was used in relation to the Spirit of God hovering over the waters at the dawn of creation, of God’s presence in hovering over the Ark of the Covenant, and again in the accounts of the Transfiguration. As only God could, the Son of God took on human flesh in a most miraculous working of his Father, something only God could accomplish.

     There are hundreds of prophecies in the First Testament that give us hints of what is to come regarding the Messiah. Here is a prime example. From the earliest time, God revealed to humans his plan of redemption. In a most remarkable way, the “seed of Eve” would come to earth in the flesh, pure, perfect, and holy human flesh.

Music: “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” Caitelen

     The radiance of the Father’s splendor, the Father’s visible image, Jesus Christ our God, peerless among counselors, Prince of Peace, Father of the world to come, the model after which Adam was formed, for our sakes became like a slave: in the womb of Mary the virgin, without assistance from any man, he took flesh . . .

     Enable us, Lord, to reach the end of this luminous feast in peace, forsaking all idle words, acting virtuously, shunning our passions, and raising ourselves above the things of this world.

Bless your church, which you brought into being long ago and attached to yourself through your own life-giving blood. Help all orthodox pastors, heads of churches, and doctors [theologians].

Bless your servants, whose trust is all in you; bless all Christian souls, the sick, those tormented by evil spirits, and those who have asked us to pray for them.

     Show yourself as merciful as you are rich in grace; save and preserve us; enable us to obtain those good things to come, which will never know an end. May we celebrate your glorious birth, and the Father who sent you to redeem us, and your Spirit, the Giver of life, now and forever, age after age. Amen.           (A Syriac Christmas liturgy – late third or early fourth century) 
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