Matthew 1:1 – This is the scroll of the genealogy of Jesus, the Anointed One, the son of David and descendant of Abraham.
Are you familiar with this saying, “You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family”?
It’s one of those saying in which we try to comfort one another when something crazy happens in your family and you roll your eyes. Or wonder what someone was thinking. Or try to explain how a family member is so different from you.
“Can this be my family member?” you think.
Yes, my friend, they are.
When it comes to the holidays, for some people, there may be an underlying current of family anxiety. We never know how another person will react. Or behave. Or what will be said or unsaid. For some families, the holidays often add another layer of emotions that can be very distracting and challenging.
Now, if your family is NOT one of those families, bless your little hearts. I pray it stays this way for a long, long, time.
For the rest of the families? May I share a bit of perspective.
Jesus’ family was unpredictable, unexpected and messed-up as well.
Yep. Jesus did not come from the family that everyone looked up to in the community. His Mom was barely a teenager and from a village that was on the wrong side of the tracks. Being from Nazareth was not the cool place to be from. No one knew who Mary was, which was exactly how God planned it.
Mary’s finance, Joseph, was probably quite a bit older than Mary. He was a simple carpenter who worked with wood and his hands. He didn’t come from “the” family in town or one that was super rich. If he would have, Joseph certainly would have married someone from a family with more society influence than Mary’s family. But he didn’t.
Instead, God chose two simple people who were just regular, ordinary people … but people who had big hearts. Two people who were willing to go way out on a limb and take a risk and not question how it would affect them. Instead, they heeded God’s call in their life … and they lived it. They didn’t think about how Mary getting pregnant before they were officially married would potentially mar their little family for life. They thought less of what other people might say and only listened to Yahweh, their God.
Jesus’ sketchy genealogy goes much deeper than just Mary and Joseph. The author of Matthew’s gospel begins Jesus’ story by recalling his family tree. It begins with Abraham, the man considered the father of the Jewish faith. It traces the direct descendants from Abraham all the way to Joseph. The family tree specifies that Joseph was Mary’s husband, the mother of . It does not say Jesus was Joseph’s son. In essence, Matthew’s gospel is acknowledging that Joseph was an earthly father-figure for Jesus; not his real father and more of an adoptive father.
For those people who know the way it feels to have an earthly father that is not your “real” father, you are in good company. This is how Jesus was raised. Lived. Existed. And he turned out OK.
Digging deeper into Joseph’s genealogy as listed in Matthew’s gospel, we notice something odd. Four women are listed, which was a highly unusual way for a family tree to be drawn at the time Jesus lived. Heritage was only listed through the male side of a family; not the female. When we look at those four women, we discover one was an adulteress with King David, the post popular and beloved Jewish king ever. One was a spy. One was a prostitute. And the last one was a foreigner; not even a Jewish woman. Of all the women the author of Matthew’s gospel could have listed in Jesus’ genealogy, is it not interesting that these four were chosen?
Yes. And no.
Maybe the author is trying to tell us that all families have some yucky baggage in them. The sooner we accept it, the more likely we are to see what we have in common with each other. Maybe the author is saying that whatever background your family has, it cannot be any worse than Jesus’ family tree. Or maybe, Matthew’s gospel just wants us to see that not everyone in a family has a glorious, picture-perfect story.
Even Jesus came from a messed-up family.
And it was OK.
Can we give ourselves permission to accept that some family members are just different than we are … and it is OK? Can we allow ourselves to disagree with family and friends and not let it ruin relationships? Can we try to see the good in someone else even if they have done awful things like being a spy or a prostitute?
This was all part of Jesus’ family. It may be part of your family. I know it’s part of my family.
Last weekend, my side of the family gathered together for the Deaton Family Christmas. It is the one time of the year when we all try to get together. It maybe the only instance when I see certain family members for the year. Everyone makes it a huge priority to be at the Deaton Family Christmas.
With 25 people present, there are 25 different views on life. I am confident that we do not agree on much … other than we want to have a great day at the Deaton Family Christmas.
And so, WE DO.
We take a few minutes and each share something that we are thankful and grateful for. We celebrate significant life events such as an engagement, upcoming wedding, graduation or retirement. We hang out with each other and laugh with each other and simply enjoy time together.
We arrive excited to be there and leave anticipating getting together a year from now.
Every person who comes to the Deaton Family Christmas has some baggage in his or her life. It is just how it is. This is not the focus of the day nor is it discussed. We simply choose to make the most of the time we have together.
My Deaton family is not perfect. There are family things that Rick and I struggle with. When I ran across this quote from Ann Voskamp this week, it shifted my perspective:
“The kind of family you come from, is the kind of family Jesus came from, and the kind of family he came for.”Ann Voskamp
Can I get a huge AMEN?
Recently, a friend shared with me some challenges going on in their family. On the outside, this family looks like everything is perfect and just right. In fact, Rick and I have often commented how wonderful their family is.
My friend wanted me to know that they are going through a rough patch right now. Things aren’t always as they appear. My friend commented that every family has baggage.
How accurate my friend is.
We can go into the holidays with high expectations for “perfect” family celebrations. Bless those families who will wear matching pj’s and drink hot chocolate while opening gifts where everyone is happy.
And for the rest of us? I pray God will still bless us.
Bless those families who are able to get together just for a few hours once a year and make the most of it.
Bless those families who will not be able to get everyone together for whatever reason.
Bless those families who are struggling and challenged and not quite sure what to do.
Bless those families who cannot come to agreement on what will work or is best.
Bless those families who aren’t comfortable gathering right now because of the current situation.
Bless those families who are scattered across the country and unable to be together.
Bless those people who will be alone and only wish they had a family to celebrate with.
Bless those people who feel isolated and lonely.
Bless those who know their family is far from perfect.
May we remember throughout these upcoming days that Jesus came from a less than ideal family. AND he came for families that are just like your family.
No, we do not get to choose our family. But we can choose to love them, warts and all. This is what I’m trying to do. I pray we remember that we all have warts. Families have warts. This is why Jesus came; so our families can be redeemed.
For a Messiah that gets challenging family situations, I am grateful.
Holy God – Thank you for providing an example of Jesus’ family tree that is less than perfect. In fact, it has plenty of baggage. When we think that only our family has baggage, assure us that others experience this as well, just as Jesus did. Bless all of our families. May we have an extra dose of acceptance and patience this holiday seasons. Amen.
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