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Christmas Tales to Ponder

Christmas Tales to Ponder

Advent Devotionals from Matthew

A Tale of Lavish Grace
Matthew 1:1-17

Many of us begin reading the Christmas story from Matthew in verse 18.  That is because Matthew gives us the genealogy of Jesus in the first few verses, and since we cannot pronounce those names, and most are totally unknown, we just skip to the good parts.  Yet, it is not surprising that Matthew gave us this list.  Remember that Matthew is the former tax collector.  Tax collectors were the scum of the earth in the eyes of Jews.  They collaborated with the Roman oppressors and collected more than what was required by Rome, becoming very rich in the process, all on the backs of their struggling brothers.  Yet, Matthew was now different.  He was with Jesus, and he never forgot the grace he was shown.  This list of names demonstrates that. 

Most genealogies give the family line through the fathers.  In the Jewish world, women did not matter much. It was all about the fathers. Yet, Matthew specifically adds the names of four women, four notorious women who were in the line of the Messiah.  There is Tamar, who gave birth through relations with her father-in-law. Then there is Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute from Jericho. Then we have Ruth, a Moabite woman.  Moabites are forbidden by Law to worship in the tabernacle.  In other words, they were outcasts.  Finally, we have Bathsheba, the illicit wife of David and mother of Solomon.

Why mention these women, especially in the lineage of the Holy One of Israel?  How can they be there?  The same way Matthew is there.  What wonderful grace God demonstrates to bring about the birth of His Redeemer through such sin-stained people.  And this is glorious news, because now He calls us “brothers.”  We are in that same line.  We are family, just like Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Matthew, because Jesus will bring healing to the broken.  He will pay for the sin of His family and bring righteousness and glory to the corrupt sons of Adam.  Let us ponder the grace that was lavished upon us through the arrival of the Christ child that made us brothers/sisters of Christ Jesus.

A Tale of Two Fathers
Matthew 1:18-25

It is hard to imagine the turmoil going on through Joseph’s soul in finding out that his bride-to-be, Mary, was already pregnant. Joseph and Mary probably had an arranged marriage that had yet to fully be realized, but he was not interested in soiled goods. We appreciate his honorable nature in wanting to put Mary away without public scandal, but…  Then comes the dream, the visit by the angel, and the realization that he was about to be the “father” of a son who would not be his progeny.  We are thankful for his submission to God’s storyline and for the pain he chose for himself.

There is another Father in the story that often gets left out.  He is the true Father of this child.  Joseph would experience turmoil over taking a wife already pregnant without him to bear a child that was not his. Yet the real Father would sacrifice more.  This child was coming “to save His people from their sins.”  He knew full well, and even planned, that this Son would be given life only to lose it.  To save His people from sin, a suitable sacrifice for sin had to occur.  This Son was the sacrifice.  Imagine sending your son to do a job that you knew and determined would cost him his life.  This is what God the Father did.  The pain He chose for Himself is unimaginable, but what a glorious gift to us.  Through God the Father’s pain in sacrificing His only begotten son, we become His beloved adopted sons and daughters with all the rights and privileges of a firstborn son.  In this season let us ponder a Father’s love for His son and His eternal love for us, His eternally adopted sons and daughters.

A Tale of Two Kings
Matthew 2:1-12

In Matthew 2:1-3 we have a visit by foreign dignitaries to the court of King Herod.  That would not have been unusual, but they came because they heard of the birth of another King within Herod’s realm, and who would rule over Herod’s people.  Matthew rightly says that Herod was “troubled,” along with the rest of the nation.  They knew that when Herod was not happy, nobody was going to be happy.

Why was he unhappy?  Well, Herod understood more clearly than probably anyone else the implication of this birth.  If a new King arrived on the scene, that means Herod’s reign was over.  The old ruling house would be purged, and a new reign would commence. 

This is at the heart of what Christmas means.  It is not merely the birth of a baby who would save sinners.  It is also the arrival of an invading King who is coming to reign in place of any and all other kings.  This is bad news and good news.  It is bad news because we see ourselves as kings over the little kingdoms of our lives.  We want to determine what is and what isn’t.  When that is challenged, we are indeed “troubled.”  Our rule is over.  But this is good news in that the King who comes is good beyond imagination, and He comes to do more than simply control the chaos.  He has come to rule in such a way that our joy will be made full.  He is going to push back the darkness.  He will undo the curse.  He is here to make things as they should be, something we absolutely cannot do.  Instead of resisting, as Herod did, we would do well to ponder how we might give the newborn King a warm welcome, for in His rule alone we find the fullness of joy.

A Tale of Foreign Intrigue
Matthew 2:1-12

Matthew 2 is such a contrast of responses to the birth of a King.  Herod is undone and goes to extreme measures to assure his rule will remain.  We are also introduced to a group of foreign dignitaries who traveled a great distance because they somehow saw in their astrological studies that a certain stellar phenomenon heralded the birth of a great King in Israel.  The only fitting thing they could do was to make that trip to celebrate His birth and to give homage to this king with appropriately royal gifts.  And so they did.  Little did they actually know that this King was more than a human regent.  Even in their limited understanding, they came to worship.

What did their worship look like?  Two things we notice here.  First is rejoicing!  Finding the birthplace of this child gave them great joy.  True worship is always about finding our greatest joy and satisfaction in Jesus.  Secondly, they gave of themselves.  They gave very precious gifts to a baby who would not normally have appreciated them.  This child was of such value to them that it overshadowed the value of all other precious things.  Worship is the outpouring of ourselves in joy to the One who is our highest value and greatest joy.  Anything less, for this child, would be inappropriate, because He was not only the King of Israel, but He was also the King of All Creation.  If these Magi had only known that, what would their worship be like?  Let us ponder what appropriate worship would look like for us, because we do know.