Monday 23 December 2019

The Christmas Jesus #4: Given a New Purpose

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham...
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar...
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth...
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife...

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit...

Having been warned in a dream, he [Joseph] withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

Matthew 1:1, 3, 5, 6, 18 and 2:22-23

If we had been put in charge of organising the coming of God’s Son into the world, we probably would have done things differently.

For a start, we wouldn’t have included those women in the messianic line. Not only are they women (which is significant), and not only are they Gentiles or associated with Gentiles (which is also significant), but they’re also, as one writer puts it, ‘Mothers on the Margin’. In some respects, they anticipate the whiff of sexual scandal surrounding Mary’s childbearing, reminding us that God doesn’t always work out his purpose within the boundaries of public respectability.

Their inclusion sends out a signal that God can be found on the margins, using people with dubious records, people without the normal trappings of status and power, but who might – like some of Jesus’ grandmothers – be right at the centre of his amazing plan for the world.

Issues of power and status continue into Matthew 2, where the contrast is not only between two ‘kings’ – Jesus and Herod – but between those who have power, like Herod and the religious elite, and those who are apparently powerless and insignificant, like pagan astrologers, like children under two years old who can be wiped out at someone else’s whim, like Joseph and Mary who are forced to become refugees and then residents of backwater Nazareth.

Jesus’ coming rewrites the messianic script, challenging ideas of social status and power in the process – born under a cloud of sexual impropriety, taken as a refugee to Egypt, living as a ridiculed Nazarene, dying as a criminal on a Roman cross.

Although we might not immediately think of it this way, it’s a reminder that belonging to Jesus gives us a new purpose. God is working out his plan of salvation for all nations, and – incredibly – he makes us a part of how he brings that about. And that salvation, as we see in the Christmas story, is for people who lack power and status, for people on the margins, for people with sexual scandal in their histories, for people with dodgy backgrounds, for people for whom things haven’t quite worked out the way they hoped they would, for people like you and me.

Because of who he is and how he comes to us, the Christmas Jesus transforms the way we think about ourselves and others, and about church and mission. As 2019 ends and as 2020 starts and unfolds, let’s worship this Jesus – to his own glory.

No comments: