The following is a reflection revised from a previous version adapted for reflection at the end of the year.
In Genesis 1 and 2, Moses describes God’s marvelous act of creation. In six days, God made the heavens and the earth and all that they contain. He spoke, and there was light (1:3). He made an “expanse” to make a distinction between the waters of the heavens and of the earth (1:7). He gathered all the waters of the earth into one place to make a distinction between land and sea (1:10). Then, he filled his good creation with good things, beginning with the sun and the moon to populate the sky (1:14-19). He created birds and fish to populate the waters of heaven and earth (1:20-23). Finally, he created the living creatures to populate the land, with mankind as the crown jewel (1:24-30). “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (1:31).
God’s creative work was very good, but when sin entered into creation, things took a turn for the worse. Genesis 5 details the drum beat of the curse with this phrase: “And he died.” Death had entered into creation, but so had the wholesale corruption of mankind: “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (6:5). God’s good creation had gone bad, and so God declared that he would de-create his creation.
Moses then describes the undoing of God’s creative activity through the flood in language that rewinds all the way back to Genesis 1:2. First, the gathering of all the living creatures and Noah’s family into the ark is the undoing of the creation mandate to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (1:22, 28). Second, the pouring forth of water from both the great deep and the heavens (7:11) is the undoing of God’s distinction between the waters of the heavens and the waters of the earth (1:7). Finally, by the time the flood had ended, the earth was essentially undone all the way back to being without form and void (1:2).
However, de-creation was not God’s goal. Genesis 8 describes a process of re-creation. “The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed” (8:2). A distinction was once again made between land and sea (8:3). Eventually, God sent the remnant in the ark out, giving them the command to “be fruitful and multiply” (8:18).
In the end, the first chapters of Genesis establish a de-creation/re-creation theme that is present throughout the Scriptures. This theme then finds its fulfillment in the language of final judgment in the New Testament. In the last days de-creation will come through fire (2 Pet 3:6-7), and, by means of fire, John tells us that the earth will lose its form (Rev 6:14), the separation between heaven and earth will be removed (6:14), and the sun and the moon will no longer shine (6:13). The order that God established at creation will be undone in the final judgment.
But, just as in the flood narrative, this de-creation happens for the purpose of re-creation. In Revelation 21-22, John describes a new heaven and new earth and a New Jerusalem being established. Paul declares that the creation will be set free from corruption (Rom 8:19-25) and that through Christ all things are being reconciled to him (Col 1:20), including we who are in Christ, who are called a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).
As we approach our celebration of Christmas, we can better appreciate the birth of our Lord when we see it as the beginning of God’s re-creative process. In the midst of a corrupt, fallen world, a child was born who was like us in every way except without sin. He was a healthy seed brought forth in an otherwise diseased landscape. When that seed of Abraham was put into the ground, through his own de-creation he yielded the fruitfulness of allowing us all to share in the new creation. Such is a good reason to celebrate this Christmas.