We began this fall with Covenants–God’s covenants with their people, and what that means for people of covenants living with each other and in the larger world.
It seemed everyone was learning how to be in covenantal relationships together, even God!
Abraham was called to be a blessing to the nations, this was part of the covenant between God and God’s people, God said, “I will care for you, you will care for each other, and be blessings to the nations.”
Our Bible is filled with stories of people committing over and over again to the covenant, the promises, the relationship with God, and it over and over again there are stories of how they failed to live into and up to that covenant. Some of those stories are even remembered in Jesus family tree
An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,7and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 12And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. 17So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
Let’s start with women who are remembered in Jesus’ family.
Tamar (Genesis 38:12-30)
If it weren’t for Tamar’s bad luck, she’d have had no luck at all. She was married to Perez and before she could have a son, Perez died. In this situation, the law called for her to then marry her husband’s younger brother, which she did…and then he died too. So the law would say she would marry the youngest brother, but he was too young. Tamar’s father-in-law, Judah, told Tamar to wait, and she did, and years went by. It seemed Judah, for fear, for preservation, for whatever reason, was going to pretend there was no promise between them, no expectation for Tamar, and she would live as a widow, forever. So she took her future and her survival into her own hands.
12 In course of time the wife of Judah, Shua’s daughter, died; when Judah’s time of mourning was over, he went up to Timnah to his sheepshearers, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. 13 When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14 she put off her widow’s garments, put on a veil, wrapped herself up, and sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. She saw that Shelah was grown up, yet she had not been given to him in marriage. 15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 He went over to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” 17 He answered, “I will send you a kid from the flock.” And she said, “Only if you give me a pledge until you send it.” 18 He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” She replied, “Your signet and your cord and the staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. 19 Then she got up and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.
20 When Judah sent the kid by his friend the Adullamite to recover the pledge from the woman, he could not find her. 21 He asked the townspeople, “Where is the prostitute who was at Enaim by the wayside?” But they said, “No prostitute has been here.” 22 So he returned to Judah and said, “I have not found her; moreover, the townspeople said, ‘No prostitute has been here.’ ” 23 Judah replied, “Let her keep the things as her own, otherwise we will be laughed at; you see, I sent this kid, and you could not find her.”
24 About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar has prostituted herself; moreover, she is pregnant as a result of prostitution.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” 25 As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “It was the owner of these who made me pregnant.” And she said, “Take note, please, whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” 26 Then Judah acknowledged them and said, “She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not lie with her again.
May we be slow with our judgment and quick with our generosity. May we see in the imperfect family of Jesus’ ancestors were still learning how to love each other well. May we offer each other grace as we learn to love each other well too.
Rahab (Joshua 6:22-25)
Rahab is the second grandmother of Jesus’ genealogy (Matt 1:5). She is a resident of Jericho, a city under attack from the Israelites. She aided the Israelites and was faithful to God. She and her household are spared from the destruction of Jericho.
22 But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house, and bring the woman out of it and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” 23 So the young men who had been spies went in and brought Rahab out, along with her father, her mother, her brothers, and all who belonged to her—they brought all her kindred out—and set them outside the camp of Israel. 24 They burned down the city and everything in it; only the silver and gold and the vessels of bronze and iron they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. 25 But Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, Joshua spared. Her family has lived in Israel ever since. For she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
May we seek and find God in unexpected places, in the lives of those who seem so unlike us. May we go looking for those places to be surprised by God showing up.
Ruth (Ruth 1:16-18)
Ruth is the third grandmother of Jesus listed (Matt 1:5). A Moabite and a widow, she came into the land of Israel with her mother-in-law Naomi. She works to provide food for them by gleaning. She secures even more stability for them through her budding relationship with Boaz.
16 But Ruth said, “Do not press me to leave you, to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus to me and more as well, if even death parts me from you!”18 When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
May we be a church that loves completely, commit to community, and walk with one another through our joys and our sorrows.
Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:16-18, 24-25)
Bathsheba is the fourth and final grandmother of Jesus, though she is not listed by name. In Matthew 1:6 she is identified by the name of her first husband, Uriah. King David plotted and killed Uriah so that he could take Bathsheba. Both David and Bathsheba suffer because of David’s sin.
16 David therefore pleaded with God for the child; David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 The elders of his house stood beside him urging him to rise from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18 On the seventh day the child died.
24 Then David consoled his wife Bathsheba and went to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he named him Solomon. The Lord loved him 25 and sent a message by the prophet Nathan, so he named him Jedidiah because of the Lord.
Bathsheba would go on to secure her and her son’s future, and Solomon as the King. May we be a church who stands with those who are abused by the powerful, who grieves with those who suffer unbearable losses, and who secure a future for those who fear they have none.
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:18-25)
Our genealogy ends with Joseph who married Mary. Matthew doesn’t tell us much about Mary but that she was cared for, she was loved, and she was the bearer of God into the world with the heavy responsibility of raising this child who would be the Christ into an adult.
18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to divorce her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 “Look, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had given birth to a son, and he named him Jesus.
Be born in us, O Christ, that we might live your love in all our days.
Good news for all people
Magi (Matthew 2:1-12)
From far off, they had come to understand that something amazing had happened in Judea and these magicians need to know about it. They traveled, brought wisdom and gifts, and were clever, keeping both them and this new family safe.
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, magi from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star in the east and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him, 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out, and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen in the east, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
The Good News of God with us was already for all people, no matter. May we be people who share the good news of Christ’s love with all, no matter.
Emmanuel in Our Struggles and Suffering
Mothers of the Innocents (Matthew 2:16-18)
The wise men who seek the newborn king seek him first in Jerusalem. Their inquiries frighten King Herod and he acts to preserve his power. Many mothers weep because of his fear. Though Jesus’ life is preserved (his family had fled to Egypt), his mother too will weep one day at the death of her son.
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
While has been born into our world and is born into our lives, there is still struggle, loss, and pain. May we weep with those who live with such loss, may we stand up to such injustice, may we live a better world.
Making Christmas Ours
Howard Thurman The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost, to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.