Monday the 17th December marks a change in the journey towards Christmas or perhaps more correctly it marks a moment when the birth of Jesus comes to meet and remind us that we are all part of his family tree.
Matthew’s Gospel begins with the family tree of Jesus the Christ, son of David, son of Abraham. It is beautifully put together, neatly divided and very often missed out as the list of names has a tendency to confuse rather than inform. Yet it is worth looking at and reflecting on.
Genealogies tell us where and who we come from, they give us a sense of identity and point us in a direction. Really good genealogies include even the skeletons we would like to keep in the cupboards of our lives. A bit like Harry Potter hidden away under the stairs.
The genealogy of Jesus goes a long way to telling us who he is, where he comes from and where he’s going. He is a carries in his genes the blood of Abraham and the blood of David. It is important to remember that when Abraham began his journey from the ancient city of Ur, near modern Basra, he was a gentile. As King Hussein of Jordan reminded us when he spoke at the funeral of his friend Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral “we are all the children of Abraham”. If only we could take on board the implications of that word. The radicalness of us all being children of Abraham is found in the words of John the Baptist when he says “God can raise up children of Abraham from these stones”. See the world through inclusive rather than exclusive eyes.
Jesus also carries the blood of David, the great King,who reigned over the Israel at a time when they were at their most powerful, a kingdom that stretched from Dan to Beersheba. A Kingdom which didn’t last long, became divided and eventually became totally destroyed resulting in the deportation of the people to Babylon. The exile in Babylon makes a key moment in the history of Jesus’ people. When all is lost and there appears to be no future, how can we and even God stay faithful to us?
A truly terrible time. Akin in the gospel story to the disciples facing the crucifixion of Jesus. All is lost, there is no future. How can we go on? Should we give up?
The Exile and the Crucifixion of Jesus amazingly become the great moments of Hope rather than despair. A miracle indeed!
The family tree of Jesus tells us that he carries the whole story of his people and not just his people in a narrow way but the story of all of us. The skeletons in the cupboard come in the names of the women mentioned in the otherwise more normal list of men. They are to say the least foreign and to a greater or lesser extent involved in rather dubious behavior even though they are undoubtedly very strong women who despite the unquestioned difficulties which face them come out with great integrity and wholeness.
Tamar: Who uses all of her cunning and skill to get her rights: Genesis 38
Rahab: of the scarlet cord hanging from the window: Joshua 2
Ruth: The Moabitess who becomes the Great Grandmother of King David: Book of Ruth
Uriah’s wife: The unnamed Bathsheba who is simply taken by David and whose husband, the honourable Uriah the Hittite is murdered on David’s orders. 2 Samuel 11
And finally Mary who is found to be with child by the Holy Spirit and whom Joseph takes home as his wife and who is named Jesus but will be called “Emmanuel” a name which means ‘God is with us’.
The family tree of Jesus is definitely worth more than a glance or two. Also of course our own family tree whether that tree be biological or of our faith journey carries much that can enlighten, enrich and even challenge our lives. It is always good to remember that we are all in one way or another members of the family tree of Jesus.