It truly is the most wonderful time of the year! Not because the decorations are beautiful, the music is cheerful, or the season is nostalgic, but because it’s a season during which we intentionally place Jesus at the forefront and focus upon Him. While the decorations and holiday cheer are fine and good, they should never be the focus. As Christians, we know the true meaning of Christmas and, therefore, ought to celebrate and focus our minds and hearts accordingly.
For this reason, I’ll be taking time this month to reflect and highlight different parts of the Christmas story. Over the past five years, I’ve looked at Christmas through the eyes of different members of the story. Mary’s wide-eyed wonder, Joseph’s steadfast gaze, Elizabeth’s joy, the shepherd’s fear, Bethlehem’s busyness, Simon’s amazement, and the magi’s worship. Each character has a unique perspective from which we gain greater insight into the miracle of Christmas.
However, this year we’re going to back up even further. As we embark on the road to Christmas, we must start in Matthew 1, because the truth of the matter is that the story of Christmas doesn’t start with Gabriel’s pronouncement. According to Matthew, the story starts thousands of years earlier with a man named Abraham.
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.”
God’s promise of redemption was first given in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve ushered sin into the world. However, the road to Christmas and the fulfillment of the promise did not start until Abraham. Abraham—the father of faith, hero of history, and man of God. However, Abraham didn’t have a perfect story. He had his share of failures, but in the end he is commended throughout the Bible for his faith. Abraham stepped out in faith—answering God’s call to go to an unknown place—and believed God’s promise that he would be the father of nations. Thus, the Jewish people were born. And through the line of Abraham came Jesus.
However, along the way there are quite a few unlikely characters. Jesus’s ancestry includes such shady figures as Judah who suggested selling his broth Joseph into slavery and then later unknowingly slept with his daughter-in-law. There’s Manasseh, one of Judah’s most evil kings, who killed the prophet Isaiah. However, God also used David and Solomon who faithfully served God but also had issues with attractive women.
The genealogy of Jesus is not simply a list of weird sounding names. Rather, it’s a testimony to God’s faithfulness and how He uses broken people to accomplish His divine purposes. Remember, how we mentioned Judah and his affair with Tamar, his daughter-in-law? Well, notice that both of them are listed in Matthew. Jesus came through their brokenness. Similarly, David, the man after God’s own heart, was promised to be in the line of the Messiah. But did God use Abigail or one of his other noble wives to bring that fulfillment to pass? No! Bathsheba was the one God used to bring the Savior into the world.
Another unlikely character in this list is Ruth. We’ve studied her story in a past Bible study, and discovered that she was a foreigner, a Gentile, the last person expected to be in the lineage of Jesus. Surprisingly, Ruth’s mother-in-law Rahab was also a Gentile and a former prostitute. However, she’s also listed in Matthew. God likes to do the unexpected. He is the ultimate Storyteller with great plot twists and surprising details. So He used a Moabite girl and a former Canaanite prostitute in His story of redemption.
While these women may seem unlikely members of the Christmas story, what is even more remarkable is that they are mentioned at all. In a male led culture, women were generally of little importance in tracing lineage. Therefore, to have these women even listed in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is an act of divine intervention in and of itself.
An interesting note is that five women are listed in Jesus’s genealogy. Of those five, Mary was the first and only virgin. The other four were women with a past. They had experienced the pain of life and had been broken in some way. However, with Jesus’s arrival the story began to change. Jesus’s heritage contained broken people, but He was born of a virgin as the prophet Isaiah prophesied. And from that point forward, Jesus began changing the narrative, redeeming the past, and providing an alternate ending to the story of humanity.
Through this, God is trying to show us an important message: no one was perfect. Jesus’s lineage was full of imperfect, sinful people who fell short of their potential. However, the point of Jesus’s arrival on earth was to redeem what was lost, restore the broken, and bring salvation to the fallen. Therefore, as we read through this list of names, the unlikely characters mentioned should give us hope and remind us that God keeps His promises no matter how miserably man fails. He is faithful and steadfast. His purposes were never thwarted and His divine plans will always come to pass.
Therefore, as we embark on the road to Christmas, don’t forget the important lessons found in Matthew 1. God uses the most unlikely people in unexpected ways to fulfill His mission here on earth. So don’t count yourself out of God’s plan and story, but seek the redemption and restoration found only in Jesus.
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