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Friday, December 25, 2009

The Prequel to the Christmas Story...

It’s unfortunate that one of the most fascinating parts of the Christmas story is often skipped in the traditional retelling of the birth of Christ.

Admittedly, the Bible verses, “Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judah…” don’t lend themselves to the more traditional Sunday school plays. But that quick overview of Jesus’ ancestors is God’s shorthand way of reminding us how he kept his promise to send the Messiah.

When you study the history of these people, it’s incredible that Jesus was even born, especially in light of some of his unsavory relatives.

According to Hebrew tradition, women were never included in genealogies, yet in Matthew’s version of the family tree, he goes out of his way to mention several. Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar” (Matthew 1:3). So who was Tamar?

Tamar was actually Judah’s daughter-in-law. In a drama worthy of an episode of Jerry Springer, Tamar, a childless widow, disguised herself as a prostitute and tricked her father-in-law into a night of amour. Nine months later, Tamar gave birth to twins, and Perez would continue Jesus’ family line.

Another woman who merited a special remark was Rahab (Matthew 1:5). The book of Joshua tells us she was a prostitute who lived in Jericho. When Joshua sent two spies to look over this land, Rahab hid the foreigners on her roof and lied to her king saying she did not know who they were or where they went.

As darkness approached, Rahab spoke to the spies and proclaimed her faith and trust in the God of Israel. When the walls of Jericho came tumbling down, “Joshua saved Rahab, the harlot, alive and her father’s household and all that she had, and she dwelleth in Israel…” (Joshua 6:22). Soon after, Rahab was grafted into the family tree.

Matthew also refers to Ruth (Matthew 1:5). Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons, left the land of Judah and sojourned to the country of Mosh. Both sons married Moabites, a hated people well known for their pagan idolatry.

The story continues that after the death of her husband and two sons, Naomi decided to return alone to Judah. But Ruth, Naomi’s daughter-in-law already had pledged herself to the God of Israel. Ruth left her homeland to live in Judah, and yet another foreigner became a part of Jesus’ lineage when Ruth married Boaz.

The last two women Matthew references are Mary, mother of Jesus, and another woman who is not specifically named in Matthew’s retelling. “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife” (Matthew 1:6) Now this had been a tongue-wagging scandal, and lest anyone forget, Matthew goes out of his way to make sure the horror is laid bare for all to remember.

Solomon’s mother was Bathsheba, and certainly Uriah would have been one of King David’s biggest supporters if not one of his closest friends. David committed adultery with Bathsheba. When she discovered she was pregnant, David betrayed Uriah once again by sending him to the front line of battle and then removing all reinforcements ensuring that he would be killed.

David, however, knew God’s heart and repented for his atrocities. Although the son born of transgression died, David and Bathsheba would later have another son, Solomon, who is described as the wisest man who ever lived. He continued Jesus’ family line.

The entire old testament, summarized in those few verses in Mathew and Luke tells the saga of one family. It’s an account of kings and warriors, slaves and peasants, murderers and harlots, liars and cheaters, heroes and saints. It’s a story of hope and promise. Despite it all, the Messiah was born.

Today, God is still fulfilling his promises no matter how dark and bleak the world sometimes appears. At Christmas, we would do well to remember that.

From my home to yours, I wish you a Merry Christmas.

Deb Ayers

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bumper Sticker Wisdom #2

Bumper Sticker Sighting (Tucson)

I achieved all of my goals at Butterfield Elementary.

Uh-huh. This person set a pretty low bar for themselves...