Advent Week One | Week One
The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant from the Holy Spirit. So her husband, Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name him Immanuel,
which is translated “God is with us.”
- Matthew 1:18-23
When we read Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth we usually skip the first 17 verses. After all, when you see a lengthy genealogy, a biblical record of ancestry, it might seem a bit boring and less than useful. Ancient cultural nuances get lost on those of us living in today’s modern age. However, when displayed in their proper context, they are quite fascinating – even beautiful.
In ancient times your lineage was incredibly important. It determined much about your prospects for success in life. In many cases it determined privilege and opportunities. Your family history was everything. This is what makes the family history of Jesus so significant. In Matthew’s recording of Jesus’ family tree the names of four women are listed. Their placement in the record of birth is anything but incidental.
Tamar. You can read her sordid, R-rated story in Genesis 38. In short, this Gentile woman is deceived and left as an outcast by one of Jacob’s sons – Judah. Wounded and hurt, she disguises herself as a prostitute and sleeps with Judah – becoming pregnant with Perez, one of Jesus’ ancient forefathers.
Rahab. Unlike Tamar, Rahab was a prostitute by profession. This Gentile woman lied to the authorities in Jericho to protect the Israelite spies. As a result, God graciously spares her life and she becomes the mother to a Godly man named Boaz.
Ruth. She was another gentile woman born in the pagan nation of Moab which was founded through the incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughters. Ruth was a widowed foreigner with no right to marry an Israelite – much less a noble Israelite. However, by God’s grace she became Boaz’s wife and eventually the grandmother of King David.
Bathsheba. Although not mentioned by name in Matthew, we recognize her by the description “wife of Uriah”. David committed adultery and abused his power. His spiral culminated in the murder of his trusted soldier, Uriah. David took Bathsheba as his wife, but she lost her child giving birth. Eventually, they had a son named Solomon and Bathsheba became an ancestor to the Messiah.
What is the purpose of recording these women’s names and thereby their stories? It is to show us the genealogy of Jesus is so much more than just a list of names. Jesus’ ancestry is a testimony of grace. It is a message of redemption. It is proof that Jesus didn’t come to ‘call the righteous, but sinners.’ (Matt. 9:13) It shows us that grace empowers us to make beauty out of ashes. In recording the stories of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba, Matthew reveals to us the purpose behind Advent: Grace. This is the Advent (the coming) of Grace:
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his names Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
The Advent season is oftentimes accompanied by Black Friday madness, seasonal business, materialism, bad attitudes and obnoxious family members. When you are tempted to self-righteously proclaim that the world is missing the reason for the season, remember this: The purpose for the season is sinners. This is what makes the Advent of Grace so extraordinary.
WEEK ONE REFLECTIONS
Does Jesus’ lineage surprise you?
Reflect on the goodness and grace of God to not only rescue undeserving sinners, but restore them as part of His redemptive story.
How has God’s grace been evident in your life?
The way Jesus was born reveals so much about God’s character. What are some attributes you see in God from the Advent story?
Who can you show unusual grace to this Advent season?