21 And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them. 22 Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 He 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. (NRSV)
SPOILER ALERT! Believers, beware!
Oh, how we wished children’s author Judy Blume had included such a warning for parents about her book Superfudge, where the mom character admits that sooner or later, her younger son “will have to learn that Santa is just an idea.” Yikes! Right there in black and white, whether readers (or their parents) are ready or not. So on a summer day while they were waiting in the grocery checkout line, a 7-year old Grace confronted her unprepared father. She’d read the book, and consulted with Jewish classmates. She knew that being naughty or nice was beside the point. Poor Terry. While memories are dim about what exactly happened next, all involved recall it was not a happy day.
Months (and years) later, we kept up the ruse of filling Christmas stockings and labeling certain presents from Santa, but no one was fooled. Other traditions continued as well, and have since taken on more significance. Perhaps the most meaningful is our family’s practice of making Korean mahn-doo, or eggrolls, for neighbors and friends. It is something I did with my mom when I was growing up, including the delivery of warm treats to homebound members of our congregation. My siblings and I still compare notes each December, as each of our families make dozens of eggrolls for our own communities. It’s a lot of work, and not something I would attempt by myself. Thankfully, Josh and Grace remain up for the task begun in childhood, a tradition that has marked our Christmas preparations as much as decorating the house or wrapping presents.
Not yet ready for eternal life, Adam, along with Eve, is sent from Eden to “till the ground from which he was taken.” (NRSV) How very bleak; a shameful punishment. Yet the Good News Translation of this passage uses language which prompts a different way of thinking: “So the Lord God sent them out of the Garden of Eden and made them cultivate the soil from which they had been formed.” To cultivate—to prepare; to foster the growth of; to improve by labor, care, or study. We’ve all had the sneak preview. We know that reconciliation with God and eternal life are promised to us through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Savior. Are we ready? Each year, and every day, we have the opportunity to prepare the way.
Prayer: Dear God, like little children and our human ancestors Adam and Eve, we think we know it all. Sometimes this leads us to do and act in ways that separate us from you. When we stand vulnerable before you, you clothe us with your love. Help us use our whole selves to prepare for your birth anew. Amen
Nancy Kim Phillips