Back in a Garden.

Hope! In my minds eye I see a little baby in a manger with a light shining around Him and the word hope comes to mind.

“Yes that Baby embodied hope – hope for a world which is lost and devastated – a baby held the first vestiges of hope – hope that was only going to be fulfilled many years later. By its very nature hope is usually a long term feeling. It is easy to be filled with hope on the mountain top, but when adversity crowds in then the full depth of the root of hope in you is revealed. It is easy then to become despondent and allow doubts to creep in. That is why I allow every one of my precious children to go through trials from time to time – so that it will build the treasure of hope in them, which is the mainstay of the Christian life. So as Sunday approaches and you view that Baby remember, He embodied the hope of the whole world. The hope which keeps you joyously on the path, even through adversity.”

Even as the many faithful believers around the world gather on Sunday to remember and celebrate the birth of the One who was going to bring hope to a lost and drowning world, my reading this week has taken me to what must be one of the most intimate moments in the whole of the bible. The scene in the Garden of Gethsemane. In reality from the very birth of the Saviour the whole thrust of His life has been towards this scene and the events following it.

Faced with the hostile Religious leaders and a “friend” who was going to betray Him. With the knowledge that even His closest followers would soon desert Him Jesus enters the garden (Matthew 27:36). I don’t know if you, dear reader have ever considered the significance of this garden. Reflect back to the beginning of the bible story, to another garden, a perfect garden in a perfect environment, where satan whispered the words, “you will not surely die” into the ears of the innocent couple standing there. That event which resulted in a cataclysm of disaster for the entire world, was also the springboard from which God would launch His rescue program, which He announced in Gen 3:15:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike His heel”.

Were the words spoken as they were driven out of that garden of Paradise.

Here, back in a garden outside Jerusalem this conflict had reached a climax which symbolically begins in this “restful” place. The final battle has commenced, appropriately once again in a garden. Who will ever know how our Lord felt at that moment. Although most people think Jesus’ great suffering was the prospect of a gruesome, painful death on a Roman cross. While I’m sure there would have been some consideration of that. No, the real reason for His suffering was he prospect of “the cup“, which He asks God to take away from Him. The nature of that cup is revealed in Isaiah 51:22;

“See I have taken out of your hand the cup that makes you stagger; the goblet of My wrath.”

The picture in Luke’s gospel is even more dramatic as it describes Jesus as His sweat being like drops of blood falling on the ground (Luke 22:44). There is a medical condition “haemathydrosis”, where severe stress can actually cause bleeding into the sweat glands.

We, the reader are taken into that scene for a purpose. We need to see the full extent of what it took for Jesus to take the full wrath of His Father upon Himself, so that you and I can go free. Free from having to face that wrath on judgement day. That is what He has won for us the hope that we have. Truly the serpent struck the heel of the Offspring”, but his head was about to be crushed on the cross.

As we gaze in adoration and wonder at the birth of the One and Only, unique Son of God this weekend, may the joy of our celebrations not be removed from the seriousness of His ultimate purpose for coming. As I read various articles in the newspaper about Christmas and the meaning of Jesus’ coming, much is said about His role in reconciliation among people, of His compassion to all the lonely and broken, to the overall sense of love and peace He has come to bring and much else in this line. However, nowhere do I read of this aspect of His mission. Yet it underlies all the others, as valid as they may be. Without this incredible sacrifice none of the rest would ever happen.

It seems to me that the world has become insensitive to the awfulness of sin. People, even many Christians look among them, not recognizing that the chaos that they see is all part of God’s judgement for sin. That it is firstly sin which must be dealt with before the peace Jesus brings can be realized. Equally we will never really appreciate the extent of Jesus sacrifice unless we understand this.

So let us rejoice and celebrate the great Gift God has given us, recognizing essentially why He is such a great Gift. May I wish you all a new and deep sense of Joy as we celebrate His birth on Sunday. God bless you all.

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