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This devotion is part of the Jesse Tree Advent devotion series. 

Scripture reading: Genesis 3:1-24

Everything has begun to unravel.

The birdsong has gone eerily flat; the leaves on the trees are quivering. A deer, browsing in the meadow, suddenly darts into the forest. Death is in the air.

Sin has taken root in God’s good world like a noxious weed. Stubborn and pervasive, it seems impossible to rid the garden of it. Now, quite literally, the land will produce thorns and thistles, making daily sustenance into hard labor.

Because Adam and Eve ate the fruit off the tree that God commanded them not to eat from, they are banished from the garden. Exiled. They ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and now they are cut off from the tree of life.

But you might know how the story ends. There’s a tree at the beginning of the story, and there’s one at the end. At the end, the tree is smack dab in the center of the city, drawing its nourishment from the river that flows from the throne of God. The leaves of the tree have restorative powers: they are “for the healing of the nations” (Revelations 22:2). The people who live in the city have a share in that tree.

So how do we get from the tree at the beginning to the tree at the end? It’s by way of another tree—the cross upon which Jesus hangs. God the Son takes up residence in the world, not like a noxious weed, but like a careful gardener, tending his creatures and sacrificing himself on our behalf. Because of his birth, death, and resurrection, we are invited back to the tree. We can eat of its fruit, find rest in its shade, and delight in its beauty. Thanks be to God.

Prayer

Lord of life, sometimes your sacrifice takes me aback. I’ve sinned. Along with Adam and Eve, I’m the one who eats the fruit I shouldn’t—but I’m not the one who is punished. Jesus, you took on the consequences of sin for the whole world, willingly being exiled from the presence of God the Father so that we could be reunited with him. Thank you for inviting us back to the tree. Amen.

About the author

Grace Claus is resident theologian and editor for Faithward. She's also managing editor of RCA Today, the denominational magazine of the Reformed Church in America.