Long ago two partners in crime sat in the bushes.  They had a different look in their eyes that day.  Nervously, their trembling fingers sewed fig leaves together to cover their bodies.  Now they were filled with shame – something they had never felt before.  They had no peace, no joy, no hope.  It was a case of paradise lost.

Every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve since knows what these two people were feeling.  Like them, we start out life sitting in the bushes, running, hiding, ashamed, rehearsing our excuses, not caring to speak with God, hoping God does not speak with us, evading God.

For it is not just the desire to sleep in late that keeps a soul from the foot of a pulpit.  Sinful people are just plain uncomfortable in the presence of a holy God.  There is no peace, no joy, no hope.

But then, as you and I know, God came looking for us anyway.  In fact, He dropped Himself behind enemy lines, landed on our planet as a frail baby at Bethlehem, God Himself with skin on.  He found us out here in the bushes.

This Child made a trade with us – His glory for our shame.  He gathered up our shame.  He loaded it on Himself.  He carried it off, trudging up a hill littered with skulls – the dumping ground of criminals.  There He suffered sinners to nail Him to the cross.  He bore their shame too.  He died.  He took our shame with Him.  He took the rap.  He paid the debt.  “Mild He lays His glory by, born that we no more may die…”  The great exchange!

And before the sun rose on the third day, He rose, shining, glorious, victorious, alive forevermore.  God accepted the sacrifice.  “Delivered over to death for our sins,” said the apostle, “raised to life for our justification.”  

Now everything has changed.  Sinners justified, acquitted, declared not guilty.  So the Hero born of woman says to each, to all – you are forgiven, pardoned, righteous – every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve. Only your refusal shall forfeit this pardon.   Only believe this verdict, trust this pardon – and you shall have back what you lost – peace, joy, hope. “The angel guards the gate no more.”   Paradise regained!