3Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ 2The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” ’ 4But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; 5for God knows that when youī eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,* knowing good and evil.’ 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. 23therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.
It is hard to imagine what the perfect world must have been like: to experience intimate relationship with God, to be surrounded by pristine beauty, and to live in a garden filled with sweet scents, joyous sounds of life, and delicious fruits and vegetables. But it isn’t as hard to picture what happened once that perfectness was shattered. All we have to do is look around–the brokenness is evident in our homes and communities. The brokenness manifests itself as violent protests in neighborhoods distraught at death and a feeling that justice was not done. The brokenness shows itself as a hungry homeless young woman sleeping unsheltered on the street at night and trying to find a way to retain her dignity. The brokenness looks us in the eye as a young orphaned child trying to escape the violence of religious conflict. The brokenness reaches into our homes as neglect, abuse, mistrust, lies, and fear.
Temptation in its slick shiny snakeskin is not as hard to imagine. It continues to plague us in various forms: the lure of self-improvement through consumerism, the whispered promise of fulfillment through cheap thrills at the expense of another human being, the appeal to our ego to take more for ourselves and forget about the needs of others.
It is hard to read these Genesis verses and have those images of what it was like for sin to enter the world interrupt our pre-Christmas routines, festivities and celebrations. But reflecting on these verse only helps to sharpen the focus on what Christmas really means. God didn’t end the story of his relationship with us with a flaming sword and banishment; instead God opened his arms to us and sent his Son Jesus to reestablish the lost intimacy, to rebuild the brokenness, and to forgive the tempted. While we may not see the perfectness of God’s creation in its fullness now, it is there waiting to be glimpsed and experienced. And God calls us to be a part of that rebuilding and forgiving; God call us to be the change in our home and our community. We can live in the confidence of our continued relationship with God knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39). Nothing.