By Brock Bondurant
Romans 8: 19-23 - For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
I live in Missouri, a place of unique seasons with full expressions: triple digits in the summer, sub-zero in the winter, and beautiful spring and fall in the transitions between. Yet, within the last several years there has been a definite shift in the seasons. Something is happening. Winter is less harsh. In the summer, the sky is sometimes so hazy that the sun is not clearly visible. The springs and falls have been a weird mix of temperature extremes, with just days of their former glory remaining. The trees even seem confused: Are we making our leaves pretty for a while or just going straight to brown? Maybe it’s just me. Whether you buy the difference in weather patterns or not, I think the groaning of creation can be felt—or maybe that is just me too. I miss it.
According to Scripture, creation has been groaning for a long, long time. Nature has been “subjected to futility,” since our forefather Adam in Genesis 3:
And to the man [the LORD God] said, “… cursed is the ground because of you…” (v.17).
From then on, the Old Testament testifies to the groan of creation. God chose us to be caretakers of the earth, responsible for its flourishing. Yet, despite our efforts—and our groaning—bondage and brokenness remain. Persist. Infect. Destroy.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, out of the groans of labor, Jesus is born. The “firstborn” of this family that God desires to use in the restoration of his creation (Romans 8:29). Jesus, born to set both earth and humanity “free from bondage to decay” (v. 21), shows us the way to live. He invites us into the family, to follow him. He invites us to partner with him in the restoration of all things, for this is why we were created!
Our restoration doesn’t happen unless Jesus is born, unless God becomes one of us. We celebrate Advent each year, a foreshadowing or restoration. It is also a foreshadowing of the promise to come—that he will come again, a second Advent. Christmas stirs this longing up in us, and in nature too. When humanity is fully restored to be like Jesus, the creation itself will experience its own restoration. When he comes again, we will rejoice, while the mountains and hills burst into song and the trees clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12)! Creation itself will sing and we will too. Joy to the world, indeed. And Heaven and nature sing, and Heaven and nature sing; joy to the world, the Lord is come.