Eve of Christmas, Part Deux

Eve

It’s snowing outside, almost two inches since it started 2 hours ago.  Presents and stockings are history.  Candles flicker on the mantel.  The Christmas tree, perpetually lit at our house, glows in the semi-darkness.  Nothing stirs outside.  It’s quiet and we’re all still cozily in our jammies.  I don’t think I’ll be going running today.  Under that snow is ice.  Yikes!

So I had a thought, which is why I’m blogging on Christmas.  It’s because of Eve that we even have Christmas.  Let me explain.

At the dawn of creation, Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden.  They were happily taking care of the garden, watering it and fertilizing it.  They visited with the animals and got to know each other better, too.  We don’t know exactly how much time elapsed between Genesis 1 and Genesis 3 .  It could have been hundreds of years of tranquility.  Enter the snake. The snake reminded them that they could not eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil:  “But the Lord God warned him, ‘You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden – except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die’ ” (Gen. 2?16-17).  The serpent questioned that command, twisted it (Gen. 3:1).  His words seduced the woman, possibly coiling around the tree as he hissed:  “You won’t die!…God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil” (Gen 3:4-5). Eve was convinced.  She took the apple first.  She wanted the wisdom the fruit would give her (3:6).  This point has been hammered home in numerous sermons I have heard over the years. “Eve was the gullible one, hence all women are gullible”.  “Men, you need to be the spiritual leaders in your family.”  “Adam should have said no and protected his wife and himself from sin.”  Yeah, yeah.  I don’t necessarily believe women are more impressionable than men are.  I’ve known plenty of trusting men.  What Eve did was wrong; what Adam did was wrong.  The Scripture clearly says “Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too” (3:6).  He was a witness to all that went on, though he said nothing.

If you continue to read through the Bible through the New Testament, you can see that God considered sin to have entered in through Adam, not Eve.  I don’t want to go into a discourse about headship and spiritual authority, but clearly according to God, the blame for the apple ingestion rested on Adam.  See Hosea 6:7:  “But like Adam, you broke my covenant and betrayed my trust”, and Romans 5:12:  “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world.  Adam’s sin brought death..”  There are many other verses saying essentially the same thing.  What is not mentioned is the incredible influence a wife’s opinion can have on her husband’s point of view.  Eve, trusting the serpent’s word over God’s, changed the course of human history.

But because Eve took and ate the apple, we need Jesus.  She started a chain reaction that continues to this day:  original sin.

So I think it’s sort of ironic that we have a day called Christmas Eve.  She started it all. I Timothy 2:14 says:  “And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan.  The woman was deceived, and sin was the result”.  It does not seem to matter as much about the deception as the action, the disobedience itself.

Maybe, just maybe, having a Christmas Eve is God’s way of forgiving Eve.  And Christmas is a beautiful holiday celebrating the birth of the savior of the world.  In the ironic twist that does God justice, Jesus is descended from Adam’s lineage, fully God and fully man.  Eve carried the seed of the Messiah inside her even then, before she ever committed the first sin.  The Lord took something awful and made it amazing, joyful, spectacular.  He redeemed us back to himself, using the very person who first betrayed him.

On this Christmas day, I consider the forgiving God who loves us all.  His salvation and peace remain.  “Don’t be afraid!  I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the City of David! … Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:  12, 14).

The Beauty of Forgetfulness

Trying to remember what I wanted to say here…

Ah!  Yes.

I”m finding, as I mature and age, that there’s a certain wonderful quality to not remembering everything.  In my 20s, with my hard-core, detail-oriented job, I probably would’ve been fired for not remembering which version of the air handling unit spec to pull.  Not to mention how to slip-sheet documents to get them to copy correctly. Tis a dying art, I fear.

Now where was I?  Oh yeah.

Today, I was ironing.  Just call me June Cleaver.  I don’t much like to do it, but it needs to get done.  My husband wears buttoned-down long sleeved shirts with ties almost every work day.  I’m not paying somebody else to do it, being a tad frugal, and the kids and I sometimes have things that need to be ironed, too. So I screwed my courage to the sticking place and jumped in.

I was on to the first of Jonathon’s shirts when I heard it.

“M-WAO! m-WAO!” Our cat, Rex, a shiny black 20-lb. mass of feline power, had caught something.  And he wanted me to come and see!  Right away!  He has a very distinctive meow when he’s captured something.

I quickly finished my portion on the shirt and strolled to the back door.  I’d opened it and left the screen in place to let in the early fall sunshine and sweet breeze.

Rex, bless his heart, had caught a Nerf dart.

Lest you think Rex mentally challenged in any way, this is not the first time he’s done this.  Oh, he catches mice, rats, snakes and once a HUGE cricket.  He promptly ate it.  The Nerf darts appear to be special, however.  He bites them, tosses them in the air and rolls around on the ground with them.  It’s all very undignified; they appear to affect him like catnip.  He seems to think of them as living organisms.  Which might explain why they never seem to get lost permanently, but only to multiply.

I stepped outside and petted Rex’s round head.  He purred contentedly, all the while looking triumphant.  I stepped back inside to finish my job.

I completed the yellow shirt and was on to one of the gray ones when…

“M-WAO! m-WAO!”

Sigh.  Really?!

I marched to the back door and peeked through the screen.  Rex crouched, patiently waiting.  In front of him sat an orange Nerf dart with blue rubber tip.  Again.

Somehow, in the few minutes it took me to press a shirt, he’d forgotten he’d caught that particular dart already.  He wanted me, his human mommy, to acknowledge his kill.  Being a kind person, I did.  Again.

As I continued through the never-ending parade of dress shirts, I contemplated the virtues of forgetfulness.  Ruby sometimes forgets something she desperately wants to do – like get a dog tomorrow.  I encourage that. I don’t bring it up to remind her of her impossible desire.

I also think of God and how he forgets our sin. Psalm 103:12 says:  As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.  That’s pretty far. Paul says in Phil 3:13…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.  That means we forget our old ways and the offenses of others.  It’s an active forgetting and letting go, forgiving and moving on. Pretty powerful, forgetfulness.   I could use some more myself.

Easter Monday

Yesterday was good.  I was up early to spend some quiet time with God and prepare my heart for service.  After that, I tidied up a bit and took out the trash.  Yes, I know most of my married female friends have their husbands or sons do it.  I would, except Jonathon never notices when the garbage is ready to explode.  And it’s not a big deal.  I went outside in the pre-dawn, the sky just beginning to get light around 6 a.m.  It was cold, but not down in the 20s like it had been.  I noticed our fuzzy cat, Chloe, perched warily in the driveway, her eyes glowing in the semi-darkness.

Then I saw a brilliant full moon hanging like a gold pendant in the sky. There was a holy hush to the morning.  No birds sang. No wind blew. All was completely still.  No one stirred out of their houses to catch an Easter sunrise service or let the dog out. I walked down the driveway a little farther – pajama-clad me still partially hidden by the house – to take a closer look at the moon.   The moon is my favorite.  The stars are nice and all, but the moon has always made me happy. And don’t tell me it has something to do with me being a Cancer.

A light coating of clouds made the moon cast a hazy golden glow on its way to setting.  I sighed.  True beauty, at last. My spirit relaxed and expanded. I wondered if the morning after Passover was like this, quiet and a little lonely at the tomb.  I wondered if the moon was just setting as Mary entered the tomb, looking for her Lord. The dark night of separation, finally over. That same moon saw Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus was no longer there.  He is risen!

And today I am still glad of that moment.  The rest of the day passed well, church, visiting with family and friends and eating ham.  (Incidentally, how did *ham* become part of Easter?  It certainly wasn’t part of Passover.) Which brings me back to Easter Monday.  Some UK countries celebrate this day.  I think it might be a travel day; I know it’s a holiday.  But I like the idea of it, thinking about Easter and all Jesus did for one more day. It’s getting past the hustle and bustle of the actual holiday celebration. One more day past the bunnies and chicks and eggs and chocolate.  And of course, ham.  That quiet moment will be with me for a long time. It is finished, death is defeated. It is done.

The Flood

So, picking up the Genesis narrative again, we discover God’s displeasure in the human race. Only 9 generations in – albeit 9 long generations – God discovers that human wickedness has reached an all-time high (Gen. 6:5). The Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth (Gen. 6:6).  Ever feel that way about your kids?  It’s like a science experiment gone bad.  He decides to wipe them from the earth, and heck, all the animals and plants, too.  I read somewhere that this is the one world event that all religions agree on:  a universal flood. Seems a high price to pay, destroying all creation because men were so depraved. So man and all God’s creation were intrinsically linked.  Man’s rotten nature cursed every created thing.

Noah and his family found favor with the Lord (Gen. 6:8).  Only 1 family out of all the families – not to mention the Nephilities, demi-gods – made God happy.  Seems like a tall order, since no regular religion was established at this point, no temple, Ten Commandments or regular animal sacrifices listed as “keys to righteousness”.  What did Noah do, or not do, to get in God’s favor?

Noah built the ark to God’s specifications, no questions asked.  One can only wonder what he thought and what his family, friends and neighbors thought.  “Rain?  What is this monstrosity you’re building? Noah, you’ve been into the wine! You’re crazy.”

He takes the 7 pairs of clean animals and birds (when did that get decided?), and two of every other kind of thing that creeps on the earth.  What about insects?  Did they get into the ark, too?  The text said the animals “came to Noah in pairs” (Gen. 7:8-9) Eek! Perhaps they occupied the hold of the boat. The fish got a pass, I guess.  Makes you wonder about Nessie.  How much does she know?

Chapter 7 of Genesis describes rain on earth for the first time.  But the rain got a little help from “underground waters from the earth” (NLT), “fountains of the great deep were broken up” (NKJV), and “underground springs erupted” (the Message).  How terrifying that must have been to the people of the earth!  The sky *and* the earth pouring water out at the same time! “No-where to run to, ba-by…no-where to hide…”

So, after 40 days and 40 nights (again, not sure if those are literal 24-hour days and nights, or symbolic), God remembered Noah.  I’m not completely sure of this, but the word “remember” in Hebrew means “remembering with intention to act”, like when you remember to take the trash to the curb cause it’s garbage pick-up day.  It is zacar’iah, a word that has special meaning to us.  Our Zac is Zacariah. It means “the Lord remembers”. God remembered us with a son.

God blew on the earth and the floodwaters receded.  It took exactly 5 months from the start of the flood for the waters to start to dry up enough for the boat to land on Mt. Ararat.  I like the timeline.  The increments of 40 days show a completed work, symbolically, like Jesus fasting 40 days in the desert; our modern tradition of Lent is built on that.

God promises he’ll never flood the earth again.  He’s pleased with Noah’s animal sacrifices (approved for that purpose – Gen. 8:20 – again, when was this defined?).  He unequivocally states he will never again destroy all living things, even if man is continually bent on evil.  There will be cycles of “planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night” (Gen. 8:21-22).  It’s all very comforting, knowing the rounds of seasons will continue and normal life will resume. But again…why?  Why the free pass for humanity now? Were some checks put into this new start, spawned by Noah and his brood? And the rainbow idea:  genius.  I’ve seen the most beautiful rainbows while living up here, and it rains a LOT.

I’m finding it all very fascinating.  Jonathon’s reading along with Zac and I too, so lively discussions are becoming standard morning fare.  How’s your reading going?

The bonus question from last reading: Where did Cain’s wife come from? There may be a prize in it for you!

Backsliding

I’d never heard this term until I’d been going to church for a while.  And by church I mean non-denominational church, not the Episcopal church I was raised in. Backsliding?  what does that even mean?  I pictured someone sliding down a steep, rocky hillside, lolling uncomfortably on their back.  Hitting rocks, roots, bumps and holes, they traversed the length of the hill, falling uncontrollably toward the bottom.

Dicionary.com defines backsliding as:  v. – to relapse into bad habits, sinful behavior, or undesirable activities. And n. – an act or instance of backsliding, such as a backslide from his earlier training. Of course, backslider is also a related word, meaning, I gather, one who continually and habitually engages in questionable activities.

For me, it didn’t enter the normal everyday vocabulary until college.  I attended a now-defunct Assemblies of God Bible college.  We had mandatory chapel attendance every weekday.  Your attendance was required.  Chapel was at 9:30, and if you didn’t turn in your chapel card (posted conveniently in metal holders right outside the chapel ala punch cards at Fred Flintstone’s job) by 9:40, you were absent.  And if you skipped, well, there were consequences.  Fellow students called you a backslider, albeit jokingly. You got fined.  And worse. Some lucky chumps had chapel waivers.  My senior year I worked during the chapel hour and had Tuesdays and Thursdays off.

Sometimes, chapel sucked.  The golden oak pews and funky 70s stained glass windows were fun. You could feel God’s presence, waiting, heavy in the room.  But, fill the space with hundreds of young people…The speaker was boring or irrelevant or pompous (did I say that?!), the music banal and a half hour to worship God seemed token at best.  I mean, shouldn’t God get at least an hour? Did we really need Spiritual Emphasis Week? After our short service, we’d troop over to the Dining Commons and suck down coffee, munch a pastry and chat.  Then back to class at 10:30.

I found, though, that on the days when I hung out with my good friend Debbie during chapel and ate enormous muffins stuffed with cream cheese that, strangely, I missed the fellowship.  I missed that time, however brief and seemingly meaningless at times, to worship Jesus.  My spirit was hungry for food I could not swallow in the natural.

I have met several people over my lifetime that eschew church. In the small Pacific Northwest towns we’ve lived in over the last 14 years, I’ve noticed a large population of people just…hiding. They’ve been burned by those who were supposed to love them.  Some are burned out from serving.  We, regular church attenders,  label them backsliders. They find church hypocritical.  Critical of church in general, they tell me, “I love Jesus and I’m a Christian.  But church isnt’ for me.  I worship in nature, in my living room, in my car. Church is so fakey.  The music is dumb.  The Christianese is meaningless to me.” They’ve been hurt by the church, God’s organism for reaching the world for Christ and encouraging the saints.  Despite our initial salvation experience, we still sin.  I understand how they feel. We say mean things and overlook others.  We promote ourselves.  We backstab and gossip. We commit adultery and tell lies. All of these things are verboten in Scripture. Yet, the greatest asset and the great deficit the church has is its people. They also convey mercy, kindess and God’s love. They serve and give expecting nothing in return.

I submit to you that the backsliders are both inside and outside the church.  Jesus told the Pharisees who caught the woman caught in adultery,”Let he who is sinless cast the first stone”.  They each went away, oldest to youngest, reconsidering their position of righteous indignation. Shouldn’t we do the same? Shouldn’t we be working to reconcile all people back to Jesus, even those who were once in fellowship with us? Like it or not, the church is the best answer we have to be in fellowship and unity with Jesus and others.  Let’s make the most of it.