Monday, December 04, 2006

On the Way to the Manger

I think we get lost, or rushed. I don't know which. But alot of times I find myself trying to take a deep breath in the middle of the Christmas Eve Service and then, and only then, realize how much I haven't prepared myself for this moment... the celebration of when God came to earth the first time. I'm trying really hard this year not to find myself in that place but in another... one where a prepared heart and mind at peace can completely bask in the Silent Night of it all.

So I'm looking at some of the events that happened on the way to the manger.

Starting with the generations before...

~ Matthew 1 ~
The Ancestors of Jesus the Messiah:

1 This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac.
Isaac was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar).
Perez was the father of Hezron.
Hezron was the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.
Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).
Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam.
Rehoboam was the father of Abijah.
Abijah was the father of Asa.
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat.
Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram.
Jehoram was the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah was the father of Jotham.
Jotham was the father of Ahaz.
Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh.
Manasseh was the father of Amon.
Amon was the father of Josiah.
Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon).

After the Babylonian exile:
Jehoiachin was the father of Shealtiel.
Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel.
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud.
Abiud was the father of Eliakim.
Eliakim was the father of Azor.
Azor was the father of Zadok.
Zadok was the father of Akim.
Akim was the father of Eliud.
Eliud was the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar was the father of Matthan.
Matthan was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.

Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.

Wow... that's quite a list. And really, who cares? Some cool names yeah, a little bit of history, okay, but why write about this?

There are a few things that make this passage of Scripture ~ that comes just before Matthew's shorter version of the Nativity ~ significant.

First, the original hearers Of Matthew were most likely Jewish and well it mattered to them that Jesus be connected to their heritage. But still, it would have seemed kinda fake, wouldn't it? This list is Joseph's ancestry!!! Who cares?!?!?! I mean, Joseph isn't really the father of Jesus. Who cares about his ancestry? Well... if you know me at all, know my story, I would find this amazingly wonderful as I work to find ways to explain what a blessed thing adoption is to my own children, the kids to whom I am really Mother. Since God the Father couldn't be here physically to take care of His Son, he chose a man of honor, a man with some credentials if you look at this list of names and know the way God worked in the lives of all those listed, know their stories. Joseph is a descendant of all the big guys... Abraham, Isaac, David... so this gives Jesus "legal" lineage to be a King. (Well, so does Mary's... she also descended from David, just another way) And yet, even with this, in real life, he was just a simple carpenter making a living and loving a woman named Mary. He chose to believe God's messenger when he said "it's okay" and love her in spite of the scandal it caused.

He is a man of honor, and great earthly father for our beloved Lord. He adopted Jesus in a sense, loved him as his own. That says huge things about what God says about blood lines. Of course they matter, but what really matters to a little child is a present, physical parent in the home. God blessed adoption as he makes IT the avenue of providing his ONLY Son with a family on earth.

And I don't know if you noticed the names of women in the list. I do. Women??? In a genealogy? I thought it was only the men that counted. But.... not so much in Jesus' ancestry. There are four women named ~ Tamar, Ruth, Rahab, Bathsheba ~ and again, to the original hearers this might have seemed strange. Women didn't really matter in the whole lineage thing. Why would Matthew name them? Did it matter? And look at the kind of women they are.

Tamar, she wasn't even a Jew (Canaanite, ack!) driven to prostitution (Gen 38). In fact, when Judah found out she was pregnant, he wanted to kill her to cover up his own sin. Throught THIS line, Jesus came.

Or Ruth... she too, was not a Jew (her story has a book all its own) but married one, and then stuck by her mother-in-law and ended up marrying Boaz... yet another link in his lineage. And

Rahab (Joshua 2ff), a temple priestess who conducted "worship" for men by using her sexuality. But for some reason, she decided to protect some Jewish spies, was saved from the fall of Jericho and married... yeah, you guessed it... into the lineage that would bring the world Jesus.

Bathsheba, well, she is the stolen queen. David lusted after her and to get her, he had her husband killed. (2 Samuel 12: 24, 25).

All these women, all foreigners, all with sordid stories... they tell me that God wants us all, no matter where we come from, no matter what we've done. He can use us and he sent Jesus to earth, through these people FOR US.

It's more than a bunch of names... it's the Way to the Manger.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Our God Comes

The virgin will be with child
and will give birth to a son,

And they will call him Immanuel ~
which means, "God with us."

You who brings good tidings to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.

You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,

Lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,

"Here is your God!"

~ Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 40:9

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lowly exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Lil Ole Me...

From Psalm 18...

For the choir director: A psalm of David, the servant of the LORD. He sang this song to the LORD on the day the LORD rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. He sang:

I love you, LORD; you are my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.

I called on the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and he saved me from my enemies.

The ropes of death entangled me;
floods of destruction swept over me.

The grave wrapped its ropes around me;
death laid a trap in my path.

But in my distress I cried out to the LORD.
Yes, I prayed to my God for help.

He heard me from his sanctuary.
My cry to him reached his ears.


The earth quaked and trembled.

The foundations of the mountains shook.
They quaked because of his anger.
Smoke poured from his nostrils.
Fierce flames leaped from his mouth.
Glowing coals blazed forth from him.
He opened the heavens and came down.
Dark storm clouds were beneath his feet.

The LORD thundered from heaven.
The voice of the Most High resounded amid the hail.
His lightning flashed... and then...

He reached down from heaven and rescued me.
He drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me.
He led me to a place of safety.
He rescued me because he delights in me.

Me? Lil ole me?
He sees my distress.
He hears my cries.
He comes thundering from heaven.
His brilliance breaks through the clouds. Lightning.

He reaches down from heaven and rescues me. Lil ole me.
He draws me out of the water.
He leads me to a safe place.
He rescues me. Lil ole me.

Because he delights in me. Lil ole me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"In Everything, Give Thanks"

I've taken some time today to think about this.... "in everything, give thanks" (1 Thess. 5:18).

in... this little word doesn't mean "after" or "when it all makes sense"... it means while it is happening. I am so not good at this. THat means when my foot hurts and the kids are screaming and Hubby isn't home yet, and I'm exhausted and it's three hours til... give thanks? Really??? In the middle of everything, whatever is happening, I should be willing to give thanks.

everything... does this mean what I think it does? How is this possible? In everything? Even when... my baby has an unknown future because of things that happened before I ever met him. Or when my sweet niece or the son of a friend aren't here with us when they should be. Or when a little guy has cancer. Or, or, or... how does it look and feel to be thankful in every situation?

give... this one I get, maybe. God doesn't beg us to give him glory for anything. It is our response to his goodness, in spite of what we see as tough circumstances in which we find ourselves. Giving happens when there's no expectation that you'll get, and no, absolutely no expectation that in the gift, you'll get something in return.

thanks... what is it, really? This is what I want to find out. We talk about giving thanks, showing gratitude, but really, what does it mean to live with an underlying gratitude for all that we have...

In Everything Give Thanks... this is how I want to live. But how?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Day One

Today, I decided. I need a place in the middle of the common, everyday things to find some sacred space. Why here? Well, I come here. I write. It's what I do in times when I get a minute to breathe. And I want to breathe. And rest. And learn. And know that God, the God I trust to the very depths, is speaking and even more, that I am listening. So here I am. I don't know where this is heading but I do know... He will meet me here, to help me in ...

Finding Sacred in the Common Things