The holiday season often forces people together who normally wouldn’t choose to be around each other. As you read this, I am sure numerous acquaintances and family members come to mind – as does the reality that you will be spending an extended amount of time with them during the holiday season. But before you are too discouraged, it may be helpful to think of Christ, the Lord of glory, whose birthday we celebrate this time of year, and the unlikely characters who made up his family tree.
The gospel of Matthew opens with a list of names all connected to the family tree of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Matthew begins by calling Jesus the son of David and the son of Abraham, two very prominent names in Biblical and Jewish history. But upon further examination, we see that both Abraham and David weren’t without problems. Abraham was a pagan worshiper of idols who lived in a household whose chief source of income was the manufacturing of idols. So, not only did he not worship the true and living God, he actively was involved in facilitating the idolatry of others. That is, until God called him by name in Genesis 12:1: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’” Matthew, who was writing his gospel to a primarily Jewish audience, would have employed Abraham’s name to lend credibility to the claim of Jesus as the Messiah. But it was also an indictment to those who embraced Abraham as their father as a matter of religious and national pride.
Jesus confronted this pride in John 8:39, saying, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did.” What did Abraham do? He obeyed the call when God intervened in his heart leading him away from idolatry to worship the one true God. The religious leaders of Christ’s day had made an idol out of their religion, but missed the point that it was all about Jesus. John the Baptist made this point in Matthew 3:9: “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” Because Jesus came as Savior and Messiah, we all have access to the benefits of being “children of Abraham.” As Paul declared in Galatians 3:29, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Then consider David. Here is a man considered to be one “after God’s own heart,” but at the same time Scripture reveals that David was guilty of both adultery and murder. But because of the grace extended to him and his subsequent repentance, David’s throne was established forever. David’s song of repentance is recorded famously in Psalm 51, where he cries out to God, “Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” God graciously heard David’s prayer and forgave him, and listed him in the ancestry of the one who would ultimately be responsible for providing true and lasting forgiveness.
And theses are just the first two names listed in Jesus’ genealogy. If you continue to read, you will discover that prostitutes, pagans, sexual deviants, liars and thieves are listed there among the family of Christ. Amazing how Christ came into a dysfunctional family to rescue us from the ultimate dysfunction of sin and death. Christ was included as a part of this family so that we could be included as part of his family. This good news is what Christmas is all about.