Monday 9 December 2019

The Christmas Jesus #2: Brought into a New Family

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...
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’
Matthew 1:1, 3, 5, 6 and 2:1-2

The persecution of Christians in China has steadily increased in recent months. President Xi Jinping has embarked upon a campaign to bring religion in China under the control of the Communist Party. Church leaders who have refused to sign agreements binding them to government regulations have been forced out of their homes and their churches have been closed. They have felt unable to declare that love for the homeland must be greater than love for the church and its Lord. For them, some alliances come before other alliances.

For us, too, the ties that unite us to Christ and to each other are stronger and ultimately more lasting than those which unite us to people in our own country, political party, even family.

In the closing scene of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus’ followers are to ‘make disciples of all nations’ (28:19) – Gentiles as well as Jews. But right from his opening page, Matthew shows us that Jesus comes for the whole world.

We see it in the birth of this ‘son of Abraham’: God is finally making good on the promise he made to Abraham that through him all nations would be blessed. We see it in the women in Jesus’ family tree – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba – foreigners to Israel who came within the orbit of the people of God. We see it, perhaps most clearly of all, in the worship of the Magi. If anything, these star-gazing, horoscope fanatics represent the lowest rung of gentile idolatry and religious hocus-pocus. And yet, these are the ones who follow the star, find the king, and offer him worship.

Whether it’s the promise made to Abraham, the foreignness of the women in Jesus’ ancestry, or the worship of the Magi, Jesus’ mission of saving his people from their sins will reach beyond the borders of Israel to embrace the whole world.

And we, too, are brought into this new family.

Once again, it works the other way round from what we might expect. God is not on the sidelines, desperately longing for us to invite him into our families so that he can get a piece of our action. Rather, he invites us into his bigger family! And as strong as the links are in our families, our links with each other in the family of the Christmas Jesus are stronger still – the family which forms our identity, the family in which all are included.

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