I remember as a child watching with great interest as the Spacecraft Apollo 8 made its historic journey to the Moon and back. It was the first time human beings had left Earth orbit and there was huge interest across the world. When the astronauts made a live broadcast from space on Christmas Eve 1968, to what was at that time the biggest TV audience in history, they said:
We are now approaching lunar sunrise and, for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.
The chapter is majestic, with a wonderful simplicity and beautiful phrases. It is controversial; not only for the faith v science debate, but also among Christians since there are a number of interpretations currently held by believers. It is above all crucial for our understanding of God, the universe and ourselves. To sum up the chapter in a few words is an impossible task.
- In the beginning God – as the psalmist puts it “from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2). God is eternal
- God created – “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible”. (Hebrews 11:3). The beauty and majesty of creation proclaims the greatness of God (Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:20). I love the words in verse 16 “He also made the stars”
- So God created mankind in his own image – whatever means God used to create Human beings, we can be certain that we are a lot more than ‘the ape that got lucky’. Animals were made “according to their kinds”, people are made male and female. We are made in the image of God, the image may be obscured by our flawed and fallen nature but it still remains (James 3:9). During the creation process we read “God saw that it was good” (Verses 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, & 25). Mankind is the pinnacle of creation, after God placed mankind as rulers of creation under him, the bible declares “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (verse 31)
After the beauty and perfection of God’s created order, we see in the first Psalm a contrast between the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous.
- There are things to avoid – the council of the wicked, the word ‘council’ can mean advice, purpose, plan or scheme, in other words worldly thinking. The way of sinners and seat of mockers. We all know that to live in a way that pleases God there are things that should definitely be avoided.
- There are things to embrace – the righteous delight and meditate on the law (the scriptures), how appropriate as we begin to read together, our prayer must be that we should delight in the word of God. We can sometimes think of sin as doing bad things but the truth is we can sin when we do nothing when we should act.
- There will be justice – we see that the way of the wicked end in exclusion, oblivion and judgement, whereas the way of the righteous leads to prosperity (from an eternal perspective) and divine protection. In our context, we have to choose the way of Christ in repentance and faith.
The New Testament must be the most extraordinary document of all time. It comes as a surprise then when it begins with a genealogy, one of the bits many of us gloss over. I’m not going to say that every genealogy in scripture is truly fascinating, I’m not looking forward to making comments on some of the lists in 1 Chronicles, but here we find a glimpse of who Jesus is.
- Son of Abraham – Every Jew was descended from Abraham through Isaac and God had told Abraham that the promises would follow Isaac’s line (Genesis 17:19) and that all nations would be blessed through him (Genesis 12:2, 18:18, 22:18). Matthew concludes with a call to go to all nations (Matthew 28:19). Jesus is the Son of Abraham, the fulfilment of the promise
- Son of David – God made promises to David regarding his descendants (2 Samuel 7:16). Sadly, David’s line had descended into sin and eventually exile. Though just a stump was left, a new branch would come (Isaiah 11:1-3), a great king from David’s line (Matthew 9:27, 12:23, 15:22, 20:30-31, 21:9, 15, 22:42, 45). Jesus is great David’s greater son (Matthew 22:41-46, Psalm 110:1-4). Jesus is the Son of David, the great King
- Son of Man – It’s remarkable that four women are mentioned in the genealogy, three were guilty of sexual sins and three were gentiles. There are evil men listed as well, though some are omitted, there are also many that are otherwise completely unknown and even Joseph and Mary would have tainted by scandal. Jesus is the Son or Man, he identifies with sinners even at his birth
- Son of Mary – This is a miraculous birth, both Matthew and Luke record the fact that this was a virgin birth, it marks Jesus as unique. Jesus is the Son of Mary, he stands out against all of humanity
- Son of God – “Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” (Matthew 1:16). There is a distinct change in the narrative. Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit. He had a name with meaning, Jesus= The LORD saves. He had a unique mission – “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins”. (Matthew 1:21). Jesus is the Son of God, who came to do the Father’s work.