Summary: A look at the four women appearing in the genealogy of Jesus and why they are there.
The Christmas (Family) Tree of Jesus
Preaching Passage: Matthew 1:1-17
Sermonic Process: Analytical
I. Charlie Brown didn’t have much of an eye for trees. But then are there really any perfect Christmas trees out there. Strange how a tree that looks so good in the lot can suddenly develop a gaping hole in your living room. Amazing how the drive home seems to stretch the trunk, so the tree your husband said was almost too short in the field has to be cut down twice before it can be stood up at home. Who hasn’t wrestled with a tree in the stand trying to turn it so the best side faces forward, or using the lights to pull a branch up or down to cover a shoddy spot. No matter what we do we find that every tree will have some flaw. But regardless, in my home, the appearance of a Christmas tree is the signal that the Christmas season has begun.
II. Today we’re going to talk about a different sort of Christmas tree. It’s a tree that is most often neglected at Christmas time, but from a biblical perspective it is the first thing recorded in our New Testament. It’s Jesus’ family tree, and since it ultimately concludes with the story of Jesus birth, I suppose we could say that it is the first ‘Christmas Tree’ in scripture.
III. Open your Bibles with me to Matthew, chapter 1. The fact that Matthew opens his gospel with a list of names tells us that he feels this is something important, something worth listening to. If we understand the Jewish people, in Jesus day, and today, we know that family trees were very important. A persons lineage gave them certain rights and responsibilities. Land was owned by families and passed along the family tree, so knowing your ancestors was like owning a title deed. Also certain families held promise or responsibility. To the descendants of Levi fell the responsibility of caring for the temple. To the descendant’s of David a promise was given that an eternal king would be drawn from their ranks. In fact as we consider this list we see many great ‘boughs’ of family history.
IV. Abraham tops the list. To Abraham was given the initial promise of a people more numerous than the stars who would be to God a chosen people. The promise was perpetuated through Isaac and Jacob.
V. To Jacobs son Judah came the promise that the scepter, the right to rule, would not depart from his family. While the names, Boaz and Obed don’t always stir memory, most of us know Jesse and his famous son David. To David God promised that a descendant of his would sit on an eternal throne and rule over an eternal kingdom.
VI. The line drops into obscurity then after Solomon. Punctuated by a reminder that the sin of Israel had brought about exile, and the repentance of Israel had resulted in a return from exile. The line continues to meander through history until it settles upon an unlikely carpenter, and his expectant fiancée. We read that Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
VII. But in the midst of these great branches of Jesus family tree we find something unexpected, something that seems flawed. In the great family tree from which sprang the Saviour of humanity we discover what appear to be withered and gnarled branches. The name of four women appear. This was a rare occurrence in a Jewish genealogy, but rarer yet the character of the women mentioned. What can these women possibly share in common with the Saviour of the world to merit mention in a selective genealogy?
VIII. We live in a world that is starving for love. Take a moment to surf the web and read the adds that pop open on every search engine. People don’t want to be forgotten. Nothing is more terrible than to be alone. Every national newspaper carries a page of personals, someone looking for someone, anyone, willing to do almost anything to be remembered.
IX. Throughout our community you will find people who are forsaken, left alone, pushed away, or abandoned. What would they do to be popular, loved, needed or even remembered. What would you do, if it were you?
X. In Genesis 38 we read the story of a forsaken woman, her name is Tamar, it means Palm. As a young Canaanite women Tamar hoped she would be an oasis, a palm of fertility. But when her first husband dies and leaves her alone her dreams are broken.
XI. According to the customs of that time Judah, her father-in-law, gave her his second son as a husband. But this man did not love her. He was willing to share the pleasures of her bed, but determined that he would never give her children, for fear that his own inheritance would be divided to his children. When he died Tamar, the Palm, began to feel more like a desert wasteland.