The well-loved hymn of Isaac Watts which we associate with Christmas announces “Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King” (387:1 LSB). Advent draws us to the Lord who comes. We might even say that Advent really does begin in creation as the Father through His Eternal Word breathes His Spirit over the depths of darkness and calls into existence that the culmination of things that are not. We did not create ourselves, rather this God has made us along with all that exists. We read of it in Genesis: In the beginning God spoke all creation into existence. There is beauty and order as over the six days, the Father creates light and separates it from darkness, brings land out of the waters, causes that earth to sprout vegetation small and large, and sets sun and moon in place. He fills the waters with living creatures and birds are made to fly in the air, animals of every description are made, and finally on the sixth day, the culmination of creation week, He makes man, male and female, in His own image. And over it all, God speaks a benediction “it was very good.”
But the sin of our first parents darkened this fresh and wondrous cosmos. They were given creation as a gift, but instead of trusting in the Giver, they believe the lie of the serpent. Their eyes are indeed now open and they no longer see the world as gift; they see their own nakedness. Adam and Eve hide in shame. The world has become a fearful place. Luther said of Adam and Eve that now even the rustling of a dry leaf would have terrorized them. The world becomes one large, stinking cemetery. We may exalt in the glories of nature with high poetry praise but the reality remains that majestic mountains do erupt spewing volcanic death on those who live under their shadow. Serene seas can churn up reckless hurricanes and calm breezes give way to tornadoes that sweep peaceful villages away. In the midst of life, there is death.
It is into this world, that the Son of God comes born of woman, born to redeem those under the curse of the law. Born to ransom and rescue the whole human race. Born to give us a new genesis. Because the Father has sent His Son into this perishing world, creation can be received as a gift by those who know the truth. Recall the words of the Apostle Paul: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving by those who know the truth, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer” (I Tim. 4:4-5).
What is this truth? It is nothing other than the fact that the Father who has made me and all that exists has sent His Son to redeem this world of lost and condemned sinners. In the blood of the One born of woman, God has reconciled the world to Himself. God’s wrath poured out at Calvary has freed us from condemnation. In Christ Jesus, we receive all good things from hand of a loving Father: body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses. And there is more. The Father takes care of them by giving clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all that I have. In other words on account of Christ Jesus, “He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” In Christ, He “defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.” In Christ we can indeed answer the Apostle’s rhetorical question in I Cor. 4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive?” with a resounding “NOTHING!” In Christ, we can see the generosity of the Father and confess with the Catechism that these gifts of the First Article are “All this purely out of His divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness in me.”
Yes, God gives daily bread to all people even the unbelieving and wicked, but when those who know the truth Of God’s coming in the flesh pray “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are praying that the Father would open our eyes to the truth so that we “realize this and receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.”
There is a certain kind of puritanical piety that often emerges in Advent, lamenting the materialism of the season. It is misplaced. God must like matter for He created so much of it. After all, He made me and all creatures. And in the womb of the virgin Mary, He took on matter-flesh and blood. Christians need not cast a dark cloud over the wonderment that accompanies the sights, sounds, smells, and emotions of this season. They too, can be embraced in the catalog of “every good and perfect gift” that is “from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:15).
So we confess “I believe in God, the Father Almighty maker of heaven and earth.” The First Article of our Christian creed is good news, gospel, for the One who created us is the Father of the Son sent into the world to be our Brother and Savior. Therefore we can say with the hymn writer:
Let the earth now praise the Lord
Who has truly kept His word
And at last to us did send
hrist, the sinner’s help and friend. (352:1 LSB)