DIFFERENT LISTS

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah. [Matthew 1:16 (NLT)]

Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry. Jesus was known as the son of Joseph. Joseph was the son of Heli. [Luke 3:23 (NLT)]

nativity

Writing about the genealogy of Jesus, as I did yesterday, posed a bit of a conundrum. While both Luke and Matthew establish that Jesus is of the house of David, meaning He fulfills the Messianic prophecies, their lists don’t match. It’s not just that Matthew begins with Abraham, goes forward, mentions women, and skips a few generations while Luke starts with Jesus and goes all the way back to Adam. Matthew’s genealogy traces Jesus’s ancestry to David’s son Solomon but Luke’s traces it to David’s son Nathan. They are, however, in agreement in acknowledging the virgin birth; neither genealogy states that Joseph was Jesus’s blood father. Matthew simply calls him Mary’s husband and Luke says that people thought Joseph to be the father of Jesus.

Nevertheless, when genealogy and all those “begats” seem so important in Scripture, what explanation is there for such discrepancies? Most biblical scholars theorize that we are given two different but accurate lines of ancestors. Some say Matthew gives Jesus’s official (paternal) one through his legal father Joseph and Luke gives us His actual (maternal) one through his mother Mary. After all, Joseph was Jesus’s father in name only. While giving a mother’s lineage was unusual, so was a virgin birth! Since there was no Greek word for “son-in-law,” they suggest Joseph was the “son” of Heli through his marriage to Mary who was Heli’s daughter. That both Joseph and Mary could trace their lineage to David is not so unusual; apparently, it was customary (but not required) to marry within your tribe. Since there is no mention of Mary having brothers, she could inherit from her father if she married within her tribe. Some scholars propose this was the case and that Joseph became Heli’s heir by virtue of his marriage to Mary and, therefore, he actually had two genealogies.

On the other hand, I read several articles positing that Luke’s genealogy actually is that of Joseph and Matthew’s is Mary’s! Some scholars believe “the husband of Mary” is a mistranslation of the word aner and should read that a man named Joseph was “the father of Mary.” Giving support to this argument is that, along with mentioning Mary, Matthew also mentions four other women while, in his genealogy, Luke never even mentions her.

Over 2,000 years ago, they didn’t have Ancestry.com or 23andMe kits and we have neither Matthew nor Luke to explain. As a result, even the most knowledgeable biblical scholars merely can speculate about these two lists. As a layperson, I simply ask myself whether small inconsistencies or unanswered questions in the gospels make a difference to me. Whether one or both lists are accurate does not weigh heavily on my belief. Remembering the phrase that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” I don’t base my faith equally on the exactness of every word in the Bible but rather on the truth of the sum of its words and the importance of their message. I firmly believe that Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecies and was from David’s line; whether he did that through Nathan or Solomon really doesn’t matter. What matters is that “the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” [Luke 19:10]

“For the time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. [Jeremiah 23:5 (NLT)]

You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. [Luke 1:31-32 (NLT)]

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HE CAME FOR US ALL

Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. [Colossians 3:10-11 (NLT)]

nativityMost of us probably speed-read through the long genealogies found in the Old Testament. The New Testament begins with a lengthy genealogy, as well, but it’s worth more than a quick skim through a list of often unpronounceable names. Because it was prophesized that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham and from the line of David, Matthew takes us through Jesus’s family tree to firmly establish His royal lineage. While there are three notable omissions in the line of ancestors—the vile kings Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah, all of whom “did evil in the eyes of the Lord”—there are five remarkable additions. While highly unusual to mention women in a genealogy, Matthew mentions five women of rather questionable reputations.

We start with Tamar. Widow of Judah’s son Er, she was done wrong both by her brother-in-law Onan and father-in-law Judah. Taking matters into her hands and pretending to be a prostitute, she duped Judah into having sex with her and gave birth to Perez and Zerah. Her unconventional behavior is a blemish on the family tree but it’s nothing when compared to the next woman mentioned: Rahab. Although she saved Joshua’s spies in Jericho and married an Israelite, she’d been a Canaanite prostitute. making her another blot on the pedigree of the Prince of Peace. Ruth, the widow who accompanied Naomi back to Bethlehem, is the next woman mentioned. This devoted daughter-in-law and grandmother to King David was a hated Moabite. Because Moab had opposed the Israelites and tried to curse them, her people were cursed and could not enter into the assembly. A hated foreigner is hardly the ancestor you’d expect of the man who came to save the Jews. We then come to Bathsheba; whether the innocent victim of rape or a seductive adulteress, her husband was murdered by King David and her first child conceived in adultery. While we know little more of her, we’ve got the plot line of a soap opera now! The genealogy finishes with Mary, the mother of Jesus: a poor young girl from Nazareth who became pregnant before marriage!

These are hardly the kind of women about whom a good Jew would boast: a woman who used sex to trick a man, a prostitute from Canaan, a cursed Moabite, an adulteress, and an unwed mother! After neglecting to mention three kings, why did Matthew include these women? If women were to be mentioned at all, there must have been a few upstanding ones whose reputations were without blemish. Yet, in Tamar, we have a woman who sought justice on her own terms; in Rahab, a woman with enough faith in the Israelites’ God to commit treason; in Ruth, a woman who abandoned her pagan gods and became a sacrificial servant to Naomi; in Bathsheba, a woman resilient in the face of the loss of both husband and child; and in Mary, a woman who faced scorn and shame because of other peoples’ assumptions. Damaged and vulnerable, these are the kind of people to whom we all can relate.

Matthew’s list tells us that Jesus came for all people: men and women, rich and poor, native and foreigner, accepted and unwelcome, famous and infamous, strong and weak, honored and scorned, Jews and Gentiles: sinners all. He came to save each and every one of us and to make us members of the same family! Thank you, God, for the Christmas gift of salvation for all who believe.

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you. [Galatians 3:26-29 (NLT)]

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THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. [Luke 2:6-7 (NLT)]

red roseIn honor of that first Christmas, the one without decorations, piles of gaily wrapped presents or a feast, let’s try to keep it simple today and tomorrow. It’s not too late to change our plans and readjust our expectations. I’m sure Joseph and Mary didn’t plan on birthing in a stable, but their Christmas was a blessed one even though life didn’t go as they’d intended. Accept in advance that some things are certain to go wrong: guests won’t arrive on time, a gift will disappoint, food will burn, a drink will spill, toys will break, tears will be shed, directions will get thrown away, someone’s feelings will be hurt, and we’ll miss those who are absent. That’s as much a part of this holiday as church, carols, family, prayers, candy canes, laughter, a Christmas tree, and pine-scented candles.

We’re all anxious about Christmas. No one, however, was more anxious than Mary on that first Christmas. She had plenty of reasons to be apprehensive and nervous. She’d conceived miraculously, endured an eighty-mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and was in labor in a strange place with no women nearby to reassure or help her. There were no prenatal classes, birthing coaches, monitors, epidurals, fancy birthing rooms, comfy pillows, soft music in the background, warmed blankets, or medical care. Without a doubt, with the sheep and cows as her midwives, she was a frightened young girl. Yet, somehow, through God’s grace, she managed quite well. She had the simplest and most meaningful Christmas celebration ever! Things may not have gone right but they went perfectly—just as God planned!

Thank you, Lord, for the salvation brought to us by a baby in a manger. Tonight, as we celebrate Christ’s birth, please replace our apprehension with anticipation, our anxiety with hope, our chaos with peace, and our stress with serenity. Let there be joy, not sorrow; generosity, not selfishness; and love, not rancor.

This Flow’r, whose fragrance tender With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor The darkness everywhere.
True man, yet very God, From sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load. [“Lo, How a Rose E’re Blooming” (Friedrich Layritz)]

All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. [2 Luke 2:18 (NLT)]

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ON SANTA’S TEAM

Be generous: Invest in acts of charity. Charity yields high returns. Don’t hoard your goods; spread them around. Be a blessing to others. This could be your last night. [Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 (MSG)]

santa ornamentThe following is a holiday pass-along story that has made the rounds on the Internet. Years ago, little Jimmy was shocked when his big sister told him there was no Santa. He tearfully went to his grandmother and asked her. Assuring Jimmy that Santa existed and she’d prove it to him, Grandma took him to the local department store. Instead of seeing the store Santa, as Jimmy expected they would, his grandmother gave him $10 and told him to use it to purchase a present for someone who needed one. Alone in the store, the boy pondered who should get a gift and finally decided on Robby, a boy in his classroom. Robby never went out at recess; although he said it was because he wanted to study, everyone knew it was because he didn’t have a warm coat. Jimmy found a brown wool coat, took it to the clerk and asked the price. After telling her he hoped he could afford it since it was a gift for a boy at school who didn’t have a coat, the clerk questioned how much he had. Proudly showing her his ten dollar bill, she told him that was the exactly what the coat cost and bagged it up for him.

Once home, Jimmy’s Grandma removed the price tag, tucked it into her Bible, and helped him box and wrap the coat. That evening the two of them went to Robby’s house. After placing the festively wrapped gift at his front door, they rang the bell and hid behind the bushes. The joy they felt when Robby answered the door and picked up the box convinced Jimmy that Santa did, indeed, exist and that he and his grandmother were on Santa’s team. That little boy is now a grown man and Grandma is gone. When she passed, Jimmy was given her Bible. It was when he found the coat’s $19.95 price tag between its pages that Jimmy realized there had been three on Santa’s team that day.

I remembered that holiday story last month when our church provided fifty-four Christmas shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse. Packed with toys, school supplies, books, clothing, hygiene items, and games, these boxes will bless children in over 100 countries around the world. My husband and I were on Santa’s team while roaming through stores picking out things that a nine-year-old boy and a fourteen-year-old girl would like to find in their boxes, when trying to fit everything into the shoe-box size green plastic boxes, when writing short notes to include with the gifts, and when hearing one woman share her experience of being on a mission trip and meeting Christmas box recipients who told her of the great impact those boxes had on their lives and faith.

As you do your Christmas shopping for family and friends in the coming weeks, why not think about getting on Santa’s team and purchasing some items for those less fortunate. In His parable, Jesus told us that He identifies with those in need—the hungry, thirsty, homeless, impoverished, sick and imprisoned—and when we do something for them, we are doing it for Him. On someone’s birthday, it’s traditional to give him a gift so, when we purchase Christmas gifts for the poor and needy, we’re really buying birthday gifts for Jesus!

“I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.” Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?” Then the King will say, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.” [Matthew 25:35-40 (MSG)]

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THE OLIVE BRANCH

Forget about the wrong things people do to you, and do not try to get even. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. [Leviticus 19:18 (NCV)]

Humility has such power. Apologies can disarm arguments. Contrition can defuse rage. Olive branches do more good than battle axes ever will. [Max Lucado]

mourning doveIn a “Baby Blues” comic strip, Zoe, the big sister approaches her brother and tells him, “About that fight we had a while ago…I would like to extend an olive branch.” With a panicked look on his face, the little brother screams, “MOM!!! Zoe’s threatening me with a stick!” Having had an older brother who delighted in tormenting me, I completely sympathized with the little boy. There were times when my brother just had to come near me and I would frantically call out, “Mom, Steve’s hitting me again!” I wanted to avoid another painful punch but, who knows, maybe one of those times he, like Zoe, was just offering an olive branch.

Long before the ancient Greeks and Romans used the olive branch as a symbol for victory and peace, the story of Noah recorded that a dove brought an olive branch back to the ark which meant the end of the flood and the earth’s rebirth. Symbolizing peace and reconciliation, the olive branch requires two things: someone to extend it and someone else to accept it. An apology and its acceptance are two sides of the same coin, as are the asking of forgiveness and the granting of it. Both are necessary for peace in our lives.

I have been like Zoe, the one extending the olive branch; I admitted my offense, apologized, and asked forgiveness but was rebuffed. Unfortunately, there are people who will never accept an apology, no matter how humbly or amiably it is offered. All we can do is keep the olive branch extended, pray that God will open their hearts, and continue to love.

Like Zoe’s little brother, however, it’s not always easy to accept that olive branch. Wanting to protect ourselves from further hurt or disappointment, we may prefer suspicion, aloofness, hostility, or anger. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we have to trust people who are untrustworthy or believe those who are dishonest. An act of love, mercy and grace, forgiveness is releasing the offense and offender to God; it is giving up our right to hurt those who’ve hurt us. Being the wronged party never gives us permission to continue the wrong with unforgiveness.

Along with an olive branch, the handshake is a gesture of peace. In ancient Greece, hands were grasped to demonstrate that neither person held a weapon. In Rome, the grasp became more of an arm grab as a way of seeing whether any weapons were hidden in someone’s sleeves. The shaking part is said to come from medieval England when knights would shake hands in an attempt to shake loose any concealed weapons.

Hopefully, we don’t need to worry about lethal weapons hiding in sleeves when we shake hands this holiday season. Nevertheless, we need to put aside the invisible weapons we carry: things like anger, gossip, blame, intolerance, pettiness, jealousy, resentment, and disrespect. Let’s extend any olive branches that need to be extended and accept any that are offered. If there can’t be peace throughout the world this holiday season (and from the news that looks unlikely), let there at least be peace and reconciliation in our homes and families.

To be forgiven is such sweetness that honey is tasteless in comparison with it. But yet there is one thing sweeter still, and that is to forgive. As it is more blessed to give than to receive, so to forgive rises a stage higher in experience than to be forgiven. [Charles Spurgeon]

When you are praying, if you are angry with someone, forgive him so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins. But if you don’t forgive other people, then your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins. [Mark 11:25-26 (NCV)]

Copyright ©2018 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved

WITHOUT THE CROSS, THERE IS NO CHRISTMAS

For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost. [Luke 19:10 (NLT)]

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. [Matthew 20:28 (NLT)]

I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. [John 12:46 (NLT)]

St. NicholasEveryone loves Christmas—in fact, in our extended family it is our Hindu relatives who seem to make the most of this holiday with copious gifts, family get-togethers, peppermint bark, visits to and from Santa, cards, lights festooned around the yard, a beautifully decorated tree, wreaths, candles, and holiday attire. While driving through a nearby neighborhood famed for its decorations, I couldn’t help but wonder what sleighs, Rudolph, reindeer, trains, inflatable snowmen, igloos, teddy bears, toy soldiers, Disney characters, candy cane arches, icicle lights, meteor shower light shows and blow mold Snoopys and Grinches have to do with Jesus. Yes, there were a few blow mold nativities but even they were surrounded by gingerbread men and polar bears.

In our secular world, Christianity has little or nothing to do with many of today’s holiday traditions yet Christmas means nothing without the cross. Unfortunately, we’ve become so accustomed to the holiday stories, traditions, and decor that surround this day that many people have forgotten its true meaning. Sadly, like my Hindu extended family, some people neither know nor care about it

Christmas isn’t about presents, tinsel, ornaments, or even family and it certainly isn’t about the birthday of a great moral teacher. Jesus was not a righteous man who came to make the world a better place. He was God incarnate and He came to seek and save the lost. He came not to be served but to serve. He came to give His life as a ransom for all mankind. He came to bring light into the dark world and save it. Jesus said nothing about jingle bells, stockings hung by the chimney with care, or elves on shelves. As the Apostle Paul said: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” [1 Timothy 1:15] That would not have happened without the cross.

We are in the season of Advent: a season of both remembrance and anticipation. During these weeks, we prepare for the celebration of Christ’s first coming over 2000 years ago but we also prepare ourselves for His second coming, when He’ll return, not as a baby, but as a King. The first time, Jesus Christ came to save us; the second time, He will come to judge us. One of my little grands lost the Jesus from her nativity set. With all of the hoopla surrounding Christmas, let’s not make the same mistake with our lives. Just as there is no Christmas without that baby in the manger, there is no reason for the season without the cross.

Born that man no more may die; Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth. Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!” [Charles Wesley]

I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. [John 12:47-48 (NLT)]

Copyright ©2018 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.