the history of the world parts 1 and 2
(…that wasn’t written or directed by Mel Brooks)
For the past two weeks in unwrapping Christmas, we’ve focused on the 4,00o years between the creation of the world and the event which we will soon celebrate (Jesus’ birth). The two primary periods are marked by the type of involvement God chooses in the lives of the two-legged creations He made in His image. He began with a “hands-off” approach and when that went more than horribly wrong, He chose to be more directly involved. Bottom line is that we couldn’t handle either approach. In His great mercy, He chooses not to pull the strings of our lives like a grand puppet master. He chooses instead to allow us to choose or reject Him. He pursues us, loves us, corrects us (and the list goes on forever), but He will not manipulate or co-opt our will for His own.
So this week, we arrive at the leading edge of the right-most arrow. The breath of time before the telling of the story of the birth of Jesus, represented by that arrow. The event that changed EVERYTHING, in taking us from the old carrot and stick covenant of the Old Testament to the grace covenant of the New Testament. It was the birth of Jesus which initiated God’s redemptive plan and made a way for us to be reunited with Him.
a long list of sinners
Before telling the story of Jesus’ birth, the gospel writer Matthew stops to give us an ancestry.com view of Jesus’ earthly family. It seems an odd way to begin such a story, but as we’ll consider this week, it is the perfect way. In listing the 42 generations in Jesus’ line beginning with the father of the great nation of Israel, Abraham, Matthew makes sets down on paper the clearest and boldest statement of God’s choice for Jesus to become one of us in order to save us. You need to watch the video to take in the full measure of the significance of the names in Jesus’ line, but I will offer the following quote from Martin Luther (the father of the Reformation) as a beautiful summary of Grant’s powerful point this week.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a line of ancestors whom the Evangelist Matthew arranges with artistry into three groups of fourteen patriarchs, fourteen kings, and fourteen princes. Among the latter were a number of disreputable characters, as we learn from the book of Kings, and there were no savory women. God holds before us this mirror of sinners that we may know that he is sent to sinners, and from sinners is willing to be born.
(excerpt from The Martin Luther Christmas Book by Roland Herbert Bainton)
There is, perhaps, no better or clearer statement that Jesus was one of us, than Matthew’s genealogy. As we walk towards birth, we find that the story is wholly incomplete if we end there. In unwrapping Christmas, we find a brilliant and beautiful story of God pursuing us and giving up everything (His Son to leave heaven and come to earth to die) in order to save us and be with us once again. May this four week “crash course” in the Bible be far more than just learning more about it. May we learn more about Him and have our hearts broken and moved with what breaks His. May you come to know Him for the first time, or come to know Him far more deeply.