Nobel prize winner, Anglican priest, and anti-apartheid activist, Desmond Tutu once said that you cannot pick your family. Now to be completely honest there was more to his quote than just that, but he did say it. And he was right.
None of us was asked who we wanted to comprise our DNA. We were not asked if we cared to be the only child, the eldest brother, the middle kid, or the baby of the family. We were each born to the family we were born to. And even for those who are adopted, the choice of adoption did not fall on the child who was being brought in but upon the family who was welcoming the new addition to the family.
And if we are honest, each of us has wondered what it would be like had we been born in another time or to another family. Maybe you wished that growing up your family had more money, or perhaps you wish that growing up your family didn’t care about money so much. Maybe you wish that you had better parents or siblings, or maybe you just wish that you had any at all. But like Father Tutu said, “You cannot pick your family.”
But there was one who did.
We are approaching the celebration of a baby who was born into a Bethlehem stable to a teenage mother and a father who wasn’t His. But Christ did not enter eternity upon the first Christmas night. He has always been (John 1:1). And He has always been who He is (Heb. 13:8). And He has always been sovereign over all things (Col. 1:15-20).
And this means that Christ was sovereign of who would be those that came before Him in His own family line.
Many of us are familiar enough with the stories in Scripture to know who those people are, though most of us need a yearly reminder. But use your holy imagination for a moment and think of who would best be in the line of Immanuel. It’s easy to think that in that line were the likes of Abraham and King David, though we often want to think less of their sins when we do so. But we would imagine that the line of the Messiah would be one that any of us would wish we had.
As we read the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1 we are reminded of the great battle of Jerico, where the walls came crumbling down. But it’s not any hero of the story that Jesus placed in his family tree, but Rehab. The pagan prostitute who’s only hope was that just maybe God could be as merciful as He was mighty.
Then we are reminded of the story of Ruth. Another pagan woman from a pagan land. She was someone unclean as far as anyone was concerned. She was no one great with nothing to offer. But yet again we see that Christ thought that this girl who deserved much less should be given much more.
And even when we finally get to King David. The person in this lineup that seems as though he should be there, something is out of place. For the line of Christ comes from the womb of Bathsheba, and yet St. Matthew only refers to her as ‘the wife of Uriah’. For this was the woman that David sexually assaulted and whose husband he murdered.
Further down the list, we read that the line of Christ passed through Uzziah. Finally...we take a sigh of relief. For “Uzziah did what was right in the sight of the LORD” (2 Chr. 26:4). But yet again we see the pattern return, for before that chapter in 2 Chronicles ends read that “Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God” and for his sins, God killed him (2 Chr. 26:16-21).
And with each name on that list, we could continue. For some reason, Christ chose that His family would be comprised of sinner, murders, assaulters, whores, liars, and the like. He desired to enter into the type of family line that many of us would try to hide. And not only did He pick this to be His family, but the Spirit also made sure we would remember that this was His family.
I believe that this is because Christ knew that over 2,000 years later there would be those who would still believe the lie that some sins are harder to wash off. There would still be those who would look down on the prodigals and the ragamuffins who would dare hope like Rahab that maybe, just maybe, God could be as merciful as He is mighty.
If you are anything like me, a ragamuffin on your best day then you have wondered this. Have you done too much? Have you gone too far? Have you sinned one too many times? Or was that time too many a decade ago?
At the root of that question is this one, how could Jesus want me in His family?
But that’s the miracle of Christmas. God came down, Immanuel. And He chose to come from a family like this because He came to save people like this. He came through a family line that would make Jerry Springer blush so that we would know that we are not defined by what we have done nor where we have been, but by Him who came to where we were knowing what we'd done.
So this Christmas remember that it was those who thought they were good enough that Jesus had nothing to do with. It was the ragamuffins of the world that Jesus called family.
And I can’t speak for you...but that’s good news for me. To me that sounds a lot like Gospel...