The Advent season is upon on us. Advent comes from a Latin word meaning ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’. For centuries Christians have reflected upon the 1st Advent – Jesus arrival as Messiah and also the 2nd Advent when Jesus will come as King.
There are certain parts of ancient culture that gets lost of those of us living in today’s modern age. I don’t think you should feel bad about that, it’s just a historical reality every generation is marked by. However, there are certain historical nuances that when set in their proper context can be quite fascinating – even beautiful.
One of those nuances is genealogies found in the Bible. Let’s face it – most of us skim through them quickly or just skip them entirely. What good does it do me to read all of these ancient names which are impossible to pronounce anyway? I get it. But in the middle of all these seemingly insignificant names is a stunning portrait of grace.
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 makes the family history of Jesus so significant. In Matthew chapter one the names of four women are listed in Jesus’ lineage and their placement is anything but incidental.
Tamar. You can read her sordid, rated R story in Genesis 38. Long story short this Gentile woman is deceived and left as an outcast by Judah. In response she disguises herself as a prostitute and sleeps with him – becoming pregnant with Perez. In doing so she finds herself in lineage of Jesus.
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 weds Boaz and became the grandmother of King David.
Bathsheba. Although not mentioned by name we recognize her by the description “wife of Uriah”. David commits adultery with Bathsheba and then murders her husband. David takes Bathsheba as his wife, but she loses her child in birth. Eventually, they have a son named Solomon and Bathsheba becomes an ancestor to the Messiah.
The genealogy of Jesus is so much more than just a list of names. It is so much more than just a record of his lineage. It 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) This is the Advent of Grace: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his names Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21)
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 reason for the season is sinners. This is what makes the Advent of Grace so extraordinary.