The Bible tells us where we come from. We are not an accident. We are not the result of winning the existence lottery. We are made by God. Moses tells us:
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.Genesis 2:7
The creation of man is described as a personal interaction between God and the man which he fashioned in His likeness. He formed Adam using the dust of the ground. Then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. And because He breathed into Adam, Adam came to life. Adam was not the cause of his own life, he was a recipient.
I ran across this detail awhile back, scent is the sense which is most closely connected with our memory. This is why the smell of wassail brewing on the stovetop can trigger all those feelings of nostalgia for Christmases-gone-by. Or why the scent of chlorine can bring back those summer days at the pool. Or for my wife the scent of turkey’s roasting brings back the morning sickness it sparked when she was pregnant with our firstborn.
Adam’s first breath was the scent of the breath of God. But he refused to remember that life-giving breath when he ate from the tree which God had forbidden. And thus death entered the scene. But not just the terrible reality that death will hunt each of us down and we will each die one day, and return to dust. The death which Adam’s disobedience brought is stated in Genesis 2:17 as “in your dying you shall die.” This is an emphatic death sentence.
The death awaiting Adam––and his rebel children––was a final state. Rather than eternal, God-sustained life, we would receive an eternal death. Eternal separation from the God of life. God is the source of life. When Adam sinned it was as if the oxygen was sucked out of the planet. It was only a matter of time before death suffocated us. Christmas is full of wonderful scents. Those smells help us remember. But one of the primary things which Christmas should call to mind is that we live on a planet that was suffocating.
The infant cries of a Child born in Bethlehem was the sign that God was breathing life into the world. Through this Child God was breathing new life into man. Before Jesus returned to the Father, we are told, “he breathed on [His disciples], and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost (Jhn. 20:22).” In other words, the Child in the manger had filled the world with breathable air again. But just like with Adam, this new life did not come from us, it came from God. The breath of life––the Holy Spirit––was a gift.