Echoes of ‘Feliz Navidad’ pierced through the night as stars shone brighter than usual. It was a silent, holy night, and I’m sure some shepherds somewhere watched their flock. The news did not report of three kings anywhere coming together in search of baby Jesus in the manger, but I heard Santa came to town as the little drummer boy was dreaming of a white Christmas.
This is certainly not my first Noel. Although the hippopotamus and some other stuff I wanted did not show up under the Christmas tree, I jingled some bells all morning announcing joy to the world because Mary’s born Child Jesus Christ was born, this day, long time ago in Bethlehem. I didn’t have Chestnuts roasting on the open fire the night before so I had to be intentional about this day being a reminder of Immanuel’s appearance into our world, more so than presents not appearing in my world. Admittedly this was a hard task, as I focused on the Presents and Promise equation in the Christmas story.
Finding a way to help me maintain perspective, I landed on, of all places, the first chapter of the New Testament. Why Matthew will begin a book with a list of who-begot-who beats me. I knew this was torturous as I read through the genealogy and affirmed that this kind of writing would have never made it past most editors today. Grant it, Matthew was not a Journalist, and God wasn’t trying to win any awards. He was making a point. His promise of long time ago was fulfilled! The Messiah promised through the bloodline of Abraham, was fulfilled in spite of doubtful circumstances. This alone gave me the assurance that whatever God has promised, unlike the many promises and expectation of presents I did not get, will come to pass no matter what happens.
This season has chimes of God’s faithfulness in the midst of chaos. Matthew’s rendition of the family tree of the Messiah is a colorful reminder of this. Take a look at the dirty laundry in the basket of Jesus’ lineage. It is like watching a combination of ‘America’s Most Wanted’, ‘Judge Judy’, ‘Jerry Springer’, ‘Maury Povich’, and ‘Cheaters’ all wrapped up in one story. Trust me I would have kept some stories in the closet, and so would you.
It starts with Abraham, the father of nations who lied more than once and made Pinocchio look like a saint, to save his neck. His grandson Jacob was slicker than a Nigerian 419 fraudster. He swindled his brother, lied to his father, got duped, then perfected his crafty trade on his uncle and even attempted to beat God at a wrestling match, imagine that. Jacob’s son Judah, had a testosterone management challenge that he engaged the services of a prostitute, not knowing she was his daughter-in-law. When he found out she was pregnant, he threatened to have her burned to death for solicitation. Special mention is made of Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba who took a shower in open spaces, and his father David, whose ‘peeping Tom’ experience propelled him to create such a murderous cover up. Even Rahab who was a professional call girl was mentioned. There were Kings who were crooks, squandered money, totally rejected God, and even committed atrocious human right violations, some even practicing human sacrifices.
This is the picture of the Messiah’s not-so-great relatives in His family tree. It seems like the only common bond between them was a PROMISED PRESENT to the world. A promise that God would use them to send His son, and a present that arrived on Christmas day!
I don’t understand why God uses such people? Why does He allow such commotion in their lives and that of others? Why does He allow an entire testament of blunders and stumbles of His people?
I get it! He knew what you and I will be seeing on the news during this time. He knew, we’d see the persistent calls to be expectant of giving and receiving gifts, and fret about promises not being fulfilled as we unwrapped our presents only to feel disappointment, or at best feel empty again after the excitement of the new gift tapers off. He knew you and I would worry ourselves to a wart and increase the chances of ulcers while shortening our lifespan here on this side of heaven. And He wanted us to look at these historic records to encourage us that, when the world goes wild with empty promises, He STILL is in control and always delivers His best. And He does this staying calm!
Every Christmas, God is announcing to a doubting world, “See, I did it. Just like I said I would.”
A brotherly homicide couldn’t murder it.
A deadly Famine couldn’t starve it.
Slavery in Egypt couldn’t oppress it.
Aimless wilderness excursions did not lose it.
The evil Babylonian captivity couldn’t arrest it.
Massive baby slaughters, on two historic occasions, couldn’t kill it.
The Promise was fulfilled!
There, a big reason for the season. The one who allowed me to win in a race of millions and millions of tadpole-like sprinters hunting for a single egg, surviving a sweet and sour cocoon that became a hostile environment after about nine months, has not abandoned this chaotic world.
Nuclear war is not a threat to this God.
Pendulum swinging economies don’t intimidate the heavens.
Betrayers will not derail His promises.
Backstabbers will not succeed at their wickedness.
Accusers will gnash their teeth as He sets a table in their presence.
So even though I was not ‘home’ for the Christmas, and I did not see Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer, I’m still unwrapping (hoping you are too) the present of life that Christmas reminds us of. An unmatched joy to the world, the hope of a fulfilling life here on earth, and peace and goodwill to all mankind that only comes from the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.