Messy Christmas

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

As we ponder the true meaning of our Lord’s incarnation during this Advent season, I wanted to pass along the following quote that I recently received from a fellow colleague:

It is easy to gloss over the introduction to Matthew’s Gospel. I should know. I’ve done it many times. Chapter one consists of what appears to be a utilitarian and benign genealogy, nevertheless important because it demonstrates that the Jesus described in this volume is indeed the promised Messiah King, heir to the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. But a closer look triggers a jolt to one’s religious and cultural sensibilities. The first two paragraphs mention that four women represent vital links in the Messianic chain: a victim of rape (Tamar); a virtuous “outsider” to the community of promise (Ruth); an opportunistic woman of ill-repute, to put it delicately (Rahab); and a co-conspirator in adultery and murder (Bathsheba). The ways of God are truly a marvel! His purposes cannot be thwarted.  He does not remove himself from our messes, He redeems them. [Ralph Enlow, president of the Association for Biblical Higher Education, emphasis mine]

Obviously, the four women who are included in the genealogy of Jesus were far from perfect, but let’s not forget that there are at least forty men mentioned in this same list who were all equally fallen and flawed human beings as well.  It would be good to remember, for example, that the Messiah’s lineage also included Abraham (a chronic liar), David (an adulterous murderer), Solomon (a serial polygamist) and Manasseh (a blatant idolater), just to name a few.  One could easily argue that the genealogy of Jesus is one long, messianic mess!

But once again, as Ralph Enlow would reminds us, we serve a God who “does not remove Himself from our messes, He redeems them.”

As absurd as this may sound, how much more so when we consider the manner in which the Messiah redeems our messes.  Instead of distancing Himself from our filth, or carefully stepping around it, He actually embraces it: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (Jn 1:14, MSG).

To be even more specific … the pure, holy, sinless Son of God, the sole source of Divine Wisdom behind the entire universe, was conceived as a frail and fragile embryo, delivered through a bloody birth canal, born in a barn, wrapped in rags, placed in a stone cold feeding trough, welcomed by stinky shepherds, worshipped by mysterious magicians, hunted by tyrannical despots, raised by refugees, rejected by relatives, befriended by bums, betrayed by his brothers, forsaken by his friends, arrested and convicted by the religious and civil authorities, tortured and mocked by the military, viciously crucified with broad support and public acclimation from the crowds.  “Crucify him,” they shouted, and “let his blood be on us and on our children!” (Mt 27:23, 25).

And “by his stripes we are healed” (Is 53:5).

Clearly, truth is much stranger – and infinitely more redemptive – than fiction.

So I wonder what messy situations you may be facing this Christmas?  The list of potential problems is endless – health concerns, financial stress, marriage and family tensions, problems at work, loss of loved ones – but make no mistake, the solution is singular.  As George Fox would remind us, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, who can speak to thy condition.”

And so we wait for Jesus the Messiah to come and help us clean up the many messes in our own lives, in our families, in our neighborhoods and in our world.  That is what Advent (“the coming”) is all about, after all.  He has already come, He is come even now, and He will come again.

Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus!

– David O. Williams, General Superintendent