Have you ever spent any time in Matthew 1? If you're like the average person, probably not. I have to confess that I used to skip over it quite often whenever I'd scan around the Scriptures at Christmas time. Let's face it - reading a bunch of names in a genealogy doesn't really seem to speak "CHRISTMAS" with all the usual warm fuzzies.
A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1)
Yet I think this Scripture operates like the Christmas decorations we often put together this time of year. From the music we sing to the lights we put up, we often engage in things that help Christmas to come more into focus. For me that shift is when the tree goes up, which is perhaps why I have a special affection for the first Christmas tree... that being Jesus' family tree.
These verses are called the “whakapapa,” an important way Jews tried to prove the purity of their history and spirituality. It was thought that if one could trace his history back to people of noteworthy descent or achievement, he was thought to be more greatly in God’s favor. This is why King David is mentioned, in addition to the fact that the prophecies about Jesus included that he would be a descendent of the one thought to be Israel’s greatest king.
On the other side, Matthew included five women in his genealogy of Christ - not customary for Jews to include women in their records. Throw a whole lot of scandal into it and we find the noble, the poor, the righteous, the immoral, the compassionate,the murderers, the religious,the pagans… you know, you and I (depending on which day you catch us).
It would seem that the genealogy of Jesus essentially tells us that everyone is invited to join his Christmas tree. You and I… called to rest ourselves on him.
But the story doesn’t end there… check this out.
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18)Jesus is God and came to literally be with us… to experience our human sufferings and temptations - and joys and triumphs. The importance of this birth of Immanuel cannot be overstated - God came to be with us in flesh and blood.
The Christmas Story is all around us.
- Why do we gather with people we enjoy and can’t stand? Perhaps because God did and does the same.
- Why do we make fruitcake? I’m not sure, actually… maybe even that has something to do with the fruitcakes in Jesus’ story. And I’m one of them… and so are you.
- Why do we hang ornaments on a tree? Maybe to remind us of our history so that we might more fully be mindful of God in the present... or maybe because Jesus hung himself on our tree.
The Christmas Story includes the absurd reality that we are a part of it already and are invited to enjoy it for the gift it is. God enters creation as every human ever has -- but though the way is common, it is God who allows the birth to be uncommon indeed.
A healing crack in the universe…
a birth in darkness in order to display its blazing light…
a baby’s cries that created a silent night of awe in the universe.
As someone who is looking for new ways in the familiar ways to find Jesus this Christmas, I invite you to do the same.