Friday, January 21, 2011

An Overdue Christmas Thought

It's getting toward late January, I know, but I still wanted to share a lesson God impressed on me this past Christmas.

Christmas is a somewhat strange time for me. I love the season, the lights, the tree, the music (except for the most horrid Christmas songs ever written) and the uptick in church attendance. I'm bored, though, with the commercialism, the kitschy movies, the materialism and the ever present battle over Christmas. The intellectual side of me (yes, I have one) even thinks we fight too hard over this one day when it's not even the date on which Jesus was really born. I like the simplicity and the Christmas message: God incarnate, Immanuel. Anything on top of that is unnecessary.

But I also fight boredom, at times, with the Christmas story. The boredom of which I speak is not about the story: it's endlessly beautiful. Nor is it about the truth of it, which is something I'm happy to ponder and discuss at any time. It's the routine of it. We read the same passages, in the same services, with the same C&E Christians every year. And that's fine insofar as repetition helps us remember. But I find it hard to glean new insights in oft-traversed material.

So the last few years I've tried to make my Christmas devotionals about the more obscure, less talked about passages. This past December, God used that to remind me of the following.

God's story unfolds through people - flawed, imperfect, diverse people.

Start with the aforementioned obscure scripture. In Matthew 1 we find that often ignored, usually skipped, fairly shiny from all the glossing over genealogy of Jesus. To modern readers such lists of names seem like a prelude to the real story, something of minimal importance. It's not something recited by Linus.

But the list is very important, and a crucial part of the story. Every name on the list is part of the story of Jesus. Every person was selected to be part of the lineage of the creator of the universe. That's kind of a big deal, no?

And oh what a list! The names range from the somewhat obscure (Hezron, Ram) to the well-known (David, Solomon, Ruth, Mary, Joseph.) Virgin (Mary) and prostitute (Rahab.) Men & women. Jews and a gentile. Carpenters, widows, kings. Adulterers, the semi-incestuous. A man after God's own heart. The wise king. A remarried widow.

God worked through all of these lives. He redeemed the wrongdoing and set a line of ancestry through imperfect people who needed a savior - all the way to the very savior they needed. It is a family tree which culminates in the very person his predecessors most needed. Suffering, sin, tragedy, success, power - you find all of these in the list - and all of these were used by God to become one of us. The creator, born.

Every name is a person, a life, a story. Every name is someone Jesus loved enough that He would die to pay his or her debt. Every name matters to God so much that Jesus came to earth, that Christmas happened.

Through these names we find a savior. Through the savior, we can find our own names written in a list in the book of life.

Next time you read the genealogy, think for a bit about the names, the stories. Be amazed at how God used the frail to bring the incarnation. And rejoice that you can have your name in such a list too; not a boring list to skip over, but a list of those saved by God.

Merry (late) Christmas

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