In order to understand the story of Christmas, we have to go back. Not back just a few thousand years to the birth of Jesus, but all the way back, back to our first parents, Adam and Eve. God placed them in the lush and perfect garden of Eden. They had everything they needed. It was perfect. Then they sinned. As a consequence, God banished them. Now Adam and Eve lived under the curse. But as God pronounced the curse, thundering from Heaven, He also gave them a promise.
God gave Adam and Eve the promise of a Seed, a Seed who would be born of a woman. That Seed would make all that was wrong, right. He would make all that was broken, whole. This Seed would bring peace and harmony where strife and conflict raged like a storm-tossed sea.
In the Old Testament, the third chapter of the very first book, Genesis, speaks of conflict and enmity. Adam and Eve, who had known only the experience of tranquility, would now be locked in bitter conflict. Even the ground would be a challenge. The prick of thorns would be the constant reminder. As the poets say, nature is red in tooth and claw. Even the promised Seed would enter into this conflict, fighting with the Serpent, the great spoiler. But Genesis 3 promises that the Seed would overcome the Serpent, securing the final victory and ushering in wave after wave of peace.
From the beginning in Genesis and straight on through the centuries chronicled in the pages of the Old Testament, the promise of this Seed rose like dawn breaking through the night. The prophet Isaiah sums up all of these promises and expectations: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder” (Isa. 9:6a).
Finally, the Seed, the promised One, appeared. On a winter’s night in the little town of Bethlehem, nestled just south of Jerusalem in the land of Israel, came this child, who would be Savior and King. He was unlike any other son in human history. First, all other sons in human history live and die. This one lived and died, then rose again. And in His rising again, He conquered sin, death, sorrow, and sadness. In the words of an Old Testament prophecy, “He rose with healing in His wings” (Mal. 4:2).
This Seed was also different because while He was fully and truly human, He wasn’t only human. We have some explaining to do here. He was the Godman, fully human and fully God. If this leaves you scratching your head and a little baffled, you are in good company. Theologians have wrestled with this for millennia. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “In Christ, the whole fullness of deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:10). Christ is the God-man, deity and humanity joined together. This is a blessed and glorious mystery.
Because Jesus Christ is the God-man, He can do what all of these other sons could not. He can bring an end to our sin and misery. He can still the storm-tossed seas, as well as the foaming and frothing of strife and conflict. He can bring in the still, calm waters of peace. He can restore us to the garden from which Adam and Eve were expelled. As the poet John Milton declared, Jesus Christ, our Seed, regains the paradise we lost.
Sin was conceived in a garden, takes root in each and every human heart, and has borne tragic fruit throughout human history. But God is merciful. He gave sons to Adam and Eve. Sin was present and spoiled that relationship, leaving one son dead and one guilt-ridden and on the run. But God was merciful and gave another son, Seth. And God gave more sons, more signs for hope in the promise of the Seed to come who would undo and set right what Adam and Eve did and set wrong. But none of these sons could set it right. None of these sons bore the title “Prince of Peace.” God has done this for us by giving His one and only Son. Through this Son, all is set right. Peace has come, for the Prince of Peace has come and reigns.
Jesus Christ, born of Mary, born in Bethlehem, born on Christmas morning, brings permanent and ultimate peace on earth. The peace we all long for is found in Christ.
Dr. Stephen J. Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Fla., chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is host of the podcasts 5 Minutes in Church History and Open Book. He is author of many books, including For Us and for Our Salvation, A Time for Confidence, and R.C. Sproul: A Life.