Summary: Like the replacement bulb that came with your Christmas lights a generation ago, Jesus took his place among us "duds" and gave us the light of life.
Apparently he could putt a golf ball before he could even walk. Then when only three years old he beat the noted comedian and avid golfer, Bob Hope, in a putting contest on TV. By age eight he had won the first of many golf tournaments. Even if you don’t know anything about golf, you’ve heard of Tiger Woods. What makes Tiger such a great golfer? There’s natural talent there for sure but Tiger’s father, Earl, aggressively developed that talent. He spent hours working with his son on the game – even going as far as hooting and hollering in mid-swing to help Tiger develop his concentration. That hard work paid off, literally. Last year alone Tiger earned $110 million in tournament money and endorsements.
When you were two years old did you demonstrate a special talent your dad thought he could develop to turn you into the next Tiger, Mozart, or Monet? Even if you didn’t, I’m sure he looked. Let’s be honest, doesn’t every parent dream of having a child who becomes rich and therefore is able to support Mom and Dad in style? The world’s first parents, Adam and Eve, thought along those lines. No, they weren’t looking to become rich through their kids; they wanted to be saved from their sins and from an eternal life of pain in hell. They quickly found out, however, that their kids wouldn’t bring them salvation. Only God’s Son can do that. In the same way, fellow 21st century Adams and Eves, we’re going to learn today that God’s Son, not your kids, is your salvation.
Our text takes us almost all the way back to the beginning of the Beginning. When God created the world he made everything to be perfect. There was no sin and therefore no death. It didn’t take long, however, for the world’s first people, Adam and Eve, to mess things up. They ate from a tree God had told them not to eat from. They did this because Satan convinced them that they would become like God if they did. Of course nothing of the sort happened. Instead Adam and Eve were banished from the wonderful home God had made for them in the Garden of Eden.
But life wasn’t over for Adam and Eve. In his love God promised to send a savior who would rescue them from their sins. God had even said that this savior would be one of Eve’s offspring. So when Eve gave birth to her firstborn it’s not surprising to hear how excited she was. She said: “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man” (Genesis 4:1b). It’s quite possible that Eve was simply marveling at the “miracle” of childbirth but another grammatically acceptable translation of her words is: “I have brought forth a man, the Lord.” In other words, Eve may have thought that her firstborn child, Cain, was in fact the fulfillment of God’s promise of a savior.
How long did it take Eve to realize that Cain was no angel, much less no savior? Please don’t misunderstand. We have no evidence that Cain was a terribly naughty boy. On the contrary. He brought offerings to the Lord just as his younger brother Abel did. But of course going through the motions of worship doesn’t mean that your heart is right with God. On one particular occasion God made it known that he was not pleased with Cain’s offering while he was happy with his brother Abel’s. The New Testament book of Hebrews tells us why God was happy with Abel’s offering. “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings” (Hebrews 11:4a).
There is a warning here for us as we prepare for our Christmas Eve service. We need to ask ourselves: “Am I playing the piano, singing in the choir, learning my recitation, or bringing a special offering because this is what’s expected of me? Or am I doing these things out of thankfulness for everything God has done for me?” Cain may have fooled Mom and Dad and come off as a God-fearing child by the offering he brought, but God wasn’t fooled. Nor is he fooled when we go through the motions of worship. He is displeased.
God could have, should have struck Cain down where he stood at the altar trying to pass off his offering as an act of thankfulness when it was nothing but a burdensome obligation to him. Instead God said: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Gen. 4:6b, 7).