Genealogy and Grace

When is the last time you carefully read through Matthew 1? I’m not talking about the “this is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about” part, but the “this is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah” part.

I have to confess that this text is not a part of my regular reading and on more than one occasion I have skipped right over it to get to the more important stuff. But this morning as I opened up the Advent devotional, “Watch for the Light,” Gail Godwin’s essay “Genealogy and Grace” captured my attention to the first seventeen verses of the New Testament with fresh insight.

Drawing upon the insight of Raymond Brown’s essay, “A Coming of Christ in Advent,” Godwin reminded me that God does not necessarily select the noblest or most deserving person to carry out divine purposes. Godwin writes:

“For reasons unknown to us, God may select the Judahs who sell their brothers into slavery, the Jacobs who cheat their way to first place, the Davids who steal wives and murder rivals – but also compose profound and beautiful psalms of praise. And what about the five women Matthew chooses to include? Not a mention of Sarah or Rebekah or Rachel, the upstanding patriarchal wives of Israel. Instead Tamar, a Cananite, who disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law Judah to get a son out of him. And Rahab, another Cananite and a real prostitute this time. And Ruth the Moabite, another outsider. And Bathsheba, mother of Solomon, is named only as the wife of Uriah, whom King David had killed so he could marry her himself. Every one of these women used as Gods instrument had scandal or aspersion attached to her – as does the fifth and final women named in the genealogy: Mary, the mother of Jesus, with her unconventional pregnancy.”

And what might this have to do with you and me this Advent season?

“And this is of course, where the message settles directly upon us. If so much powerful stuff can have been accomplished down trough the millennia by wastrels, betrayers, and outcasts, and through people who were such complex mixtures of sinner and saint, and through so many obscure and undistinguished others, isn’t that a pretty hopeful testament to the likelihood that God is using us, with our individual flaws and gifts, in all manner of peculiar and unexpected ways? Who of us can say w’;re not in the process of being used right now, this Advent, to fulfill some purpose whose grace and goodness would boggle our imagination if we could even begin to get our minds around it?”

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