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This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham … Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. - Matthew 1:1, 17 (NIV)
Jesus’ family tree was jacked up, y’all. Liar (Abraham), Con Artist (Jacob), Prostitute (Rahab), Arrogant (Rehoboam), Voyeur, Adulterer, Murderer (all David). There are more -- some pretty unsavory characters are mixed in among the Savior’s ancestry.
Recently, a search of my own family lines revealed a mix of wows. A US President (William Henry Harrison), a full-blooded Cherokee Native American (my great-grandmother), a Scottish uncle whose castle was often visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. And, super-wow, Johann Sebastian Bach. Hmmm. You would think I would have more musical acuity than I do… Then there are the not-so-nice wows. Peppered among the genteel, stately mix of Henry/Bach/Blair/Ozee lines are a good number of horse thieves, criminals, and ne’er-do-wells.
Shacks and castles, White Houses and teepees. From livin’ in a holler in Eastern Kentucky to city slickers. My family’s had ‘em all.
Maybe, like me, you’ve wondered why God didn’t make the bloodline of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords a little more, well, sanitized. It’s quite simple, really. Our God is famous for making something out of nothing.
He’s the One who spoke the earth and everything else into existence. Who, with a blast from His mighty mouth, breathed the Red Sea open and dry-bedded. Who snapped His fingers and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah turned to ash. Who fed five thousand with a few fish and some crackers.
Our God excels at making something out of nothing. And He can make something out of you and yours.
Even Jesus had a messed up family. And out of messed up? A Messiah. It’s true, friends. Every mess needs a Messiah.
… I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king. - 1 Samuel 16:1 (NIV)
God was about to give Israel a second king. So He sent Samuel to the hometown of Jesse. When he arrived in Bethlehem, following the Lord’s instruction, Samuel invited Jesse and his sons to a sacrifice.
Jesse’s sons -- Eliab, Abinadab, Shammah, and four more -- were paraded past Samuel. One by one, every son was ruled out as God’s choice.
Certainly concerned by now, Samuel asked, “Hey, is this all you’ve got? Nobody else?” (paraphrasing, of course). Suddenly Jesse’s memory was jolted and he revealed his youngest’s name: David.
“... but he is tending the sheep.” (1 Samuel 16:11b) Jesse might as well have said, “But he doesn’t count.”
His own father overlooked him. Didn’t even invite him to the event! Left him with the sheep.
From the outset, David was an unlikely king. He was a shepherd. I don’t know how much you know about shepherds in biblical times, but they were what today we might call, um, rednecks. All due respect to rednecks (I’m married to one), shepherds were the Rodney Dangerfields of ancient times. They could kill lions and bears and such, but they sure didn’t garner a great deal of respect.
Our God likes to turn conventional wisdom upside down. In God’s economy, the unlikely often become the most likely to do amazing things. Out of nothing, something. Out of the line of David? The King of Kings, Jesus.
Have you ever felt left out, abandoned, invisible, overlooked - even among your own family? Take heart, friend! God has big plans for the overlooked. He likes to turn them into royalty.
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. - Isaiah 11:1 (NIV)
My Granddaddy told the best stories. Born in 1902, he lived through Prohibition, both World Wars, the Great Depression, and much more. Orphaned by age nine, he and his siblings were farmed out to family members to be raised. By the time he reached adulthood, he would tell you that he excelled at two things: drinking and playing the saxophone.
Quite the talent, he traveled with the likes of Jimmy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. Again, why am I not more musically adept? He gave up playing music professionally to marry my grandmother. Many years later, he gave up drinking when he found Jesus. His stories were filled with wonder, adventure, and some occasional salty language (when he was out of earshot of my Granny). Without fail, however, he always turned conversations toward things that really matter, toward life and faith.
Once, I asked him to tell me what it was like to live through the Great Depression. He said it was like a light got shut off throughout the country. People lost hope and couldn’t see much of a future. There was fear and loneliness. And then he said it: “You know, Becky, I bet it was like that just before the Lord came.” Oh, how I loved that man who never missed an opportunity to point me to Jesus!
It would be many years before I truly understood what my Granddaddy said that day. The world Jesus entered was dark. Israel had been waiting so long for Messiah to come and make things right. For Messiah to rule and bring fairness to their lives. For Messiah to lift up their heads. For Messiah to restore them to God’s favor.
He came at an unlikely time. He came in an unconventional fashion. He came from questionable roots. Oh, dear. He seems like us, doesn’t He?
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given ... - Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)
Warning: Lots of transparency ahead.
I am smack dab in the middle of five children. Growing up, our holiday traditions included a December evening of Christmas tree decorating. Stories abounded about where each of the handmade, decades-old ornaments came from as we placed them on the tree. Daddy made popcorn on the stove in a cast iron skillet, and we got a rare treat -- a Coke. The whole process was overseen by our Little Mama. Finally, we’d place the angel on the top and pray together. I’m still super close to all of my siblings. I love my family of origin. They are tidy.
Greg and I have two children. Both were teenagers when we married. Before I walked down the aisle, God built into my heart an unshakeable love for them. One was a beautiful blonde girl with big blue eyes, 17, and running full out wild. Full. Out. Wild. The younger was an impressionable, brilliant 15-year-old boy. The boy has built an amazing life with a great marriage, children, and a wonderful career. The girl, not so much. Her life has been a roller coaster of decisions that have brought joy and peril into her life, and ours. But even with the peril, I know God has a plan, so I have a peace. I love my little family. They are both tidy and messy.
Here’s the deal. Families can be tidy AND messy. All in the same mix. Staying true to the love God has called you to exhibit to those with whom we share DNA (and those we don’t) will be challenging. Tidy or messy, they need Jesus. Every mess needs a Messiah, right? I want to spend eternity with all of them. What if their trek toward the real life Jesus has for them starts with me?
Oh, wait. It does.
He grew up before him like a tender shoot and like a root out of dry ground … - Isaiah 53:2 (NIV)
As you read this, I’ve just finished decorating our home for Christmas. It takes an entire week, by the way. The Husband won’t let me start until Thanksgiving has cleared the calendar, so here I am -- finally -- in my happy place. To know me at all is to know my love for all things related to Jesus’ birthday.
However, there was a dark year in recent history. A year when our house couldn’t be seen from space. A strained ACL, an orthopedic boot, but no holiday decorations. It felt like I’d been set adrift, and washed up on the Island of Misfit Toys.
Friends, what we celebrate every December is not that Jesus came into the world and fit in ever so nicely. Even in His own family, He wasn’t completely understood. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The verse above indicates that he was likened to a tender shoot in a ground so dry the roots were popping out of the soil in hopes of seeking nourishment. Oh, my. That statement is so ripe with spiritual weight I can barely read it without tears of gratitude.
Yet God planted Him into our dry, barren midst.
It’s possible that the Father wants to use our lives not to fit in, but rather to stand out. Wherever you’ve come from, whoever your family is, what counts is joining God’s family.
Ours is a dry, barren world. Where once He used the Son, He continues His quest by using you and me. He’s still wanting to save the world, for the record. Christ in us. The hope of glory.