Adam Unbound

  1. D. Ousley

Homily—L & C 15

“Adam Unbound”

In the Name of God: Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Amen.


At this service of lessons and Carols we sing a carol known by its first words, “Adam lay y-bounden.”

This traditional carol was originally written in the fifteenth century in an earlier form of our language called, “Middle English.” The song ends with a few words of Latin because at that time, Latin was also a common language.

Because of the carol’s familiarity, we may miss its message–a message which is critical to understanding the meaning of this Service as a whole. “Adam lay ybounden” means that Adam was bound. He was tied up.

What exactly was binding Adam? His desire. As the very first of the Nine Lessons tells us, Adam and his mate Eve could have had all the food they ever needed, provided for free, forever. But they couldn’t resist the one apple in the Garden of Eden that wasn’t good for them.

Paradise was not enough. Eve and Adam were obsessed the forbidden fruit. And so—against their own best interests, at the cost of everlasting life–they grabbed the apple.

This story expresses a profound truth about human beings. We always want more than we have.

For decades, Sheldon Silver was one of the most powerful politicians in the State of New York. Yet his vast influence and prestige didn’t satisfy him. He needed more and more money. And he could only get more money by selling his soul.

As in the case of Adam, Sheldon Silver’s desire was his downfall. No wonder the Bible’s account of Adam’s choice is the story of the Fall of Man.

Fortunately, the story of the Fall of Man is only the beginning of the Bible. As we read further in Sacred Scripture today, and as we hear lessons from later in the Old Testament and from the New Testament, we hear the emerging story of God’s plan to save humans from themselves.

The Messiah came to “redeem” human beings—to set us free from our internal slavery, as slaves were “redeemed” and set free from their chains.

The Messiah enters our souls and breaks the cycle of desire that we have for things that aren’t good for us. The cycle of desire for things that we haven’t earned, or things that belong to others, or for things that end up possessing us!

We can’t break free from these bonds by our own efforts. Only supernatural power—the power of the Word made flesh, dwelling among us—only this power can save us from ourselves.

No wonder that the carol ends with the Latin words, Deo Gracias. No wonder that the music and Scripture we hear today give us what the Bidding Prayer calls, “the tale of the loving purposes of God from the days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child.”

No wonder that every lesson we will hear today ends with the same phrase: Thanks be to God!


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