Rev Katherine Rainger reflects on the ancient and contemporary desire for peace.
Longing to belong
All are welcome, all can bring their deepest longings to the manger and there find hope for the future in the vulnerable baby.
Daily Reading Matthew 1:1-17
An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.
So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
All around us we see a longing to belong.
We want to feel a sense of being connected, whether in family or community or the workplace. The burgeoning number of websites that offer to trace people’s ancestry through DNA testing speak to a need to know where we come from, who our people are, and where we fit in the family story.
The people to whom the gospel of Matthew was first written needed to know that Jesus belonged to a particular line. If he was indeed to be the longed-for Messiah, he had to be connected with their chief ancestors, Abraham and David. Therefore, the writer has drawn Jesus’ family tree all the way back to Abraham.
However, Jesus’ family tree has some surprising branches. Embedded in the family tree are the names of five women who would not normally have been included in ancestral listings: Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, Ruth and Mary. They are unlikely inclusions in a family tree which was recorded to give Jesus the right credentials. Despite living in a patriarchal society, the stories of these women are recorded in the Hebrew scriptures.
These stories tell of times these women had to go outside the social norms of their day to ensure that wrongs were challenged and justice was done. I wonder whether as Jesus grew up and heard these stories about his ancestry, it gave him courage to face his future of challenging all that is destructive of life and love.
What does the inclusion of these people in Jesus family tree, tell us about the baby whose birth we celebrate in the coming days? This baby comes for everyone, all of us, not just for those who have seemingly perfect family backgrounds, but also for those who have many skeletons in the closet and for those who simply feel they don’t fit anywhere. This baby is the embodiment of the extraordinary love that God has for us, a God who is willing to give up power and challenge rules and regulations in order to become like us, to experience our humanity and our deepest longings. This baby draws all people together. It doesn’t matter whether we are rich or poor, a grieving mother or a pregnant teenager, a king or a shepherd, living in relative peace or fleeing persecution. All are welcome, all can bring their deepest longings to the manger and there find hope for the future in the vulnerable baby.
As we are drawn to the manger, we find we are standing with people from many places and backgrounds and experiences, who have found a sense of belonging here. We are not alone in our longing for justice and peace. Together we can work to right wrongs and build connected communities so that all can experience love and belonging.
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