Tag Archives: Christmas

Advent: Included

Who knew the genealogies of Jesus (Matthew 1:2-17; Luke 3:23-28) would remain with me for more than a week?  When I began these Advent reflections I figured I’d write about the women included on Jesus’ family tree and move on.  I should have known better.  Lingering with a text, reading and rereading the words, and allowing my heart to wander and wonder over what I have read gives the Spirit space and time to reveal ways the ancient story connects to life today. If you haven’t read the earlier posts, see Advent: BlessingAdvent: Missing, and maybe even Advent: Where to begin?.Salmon extended family

Only five women are included in the ancestry of Jesus as recorded by Matthew (Luke names none).  Each is an outsider of sorts.  Three were certainly Gentile not Jew:  Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth.  One was married to an Hittite:  Bathsheba (aka the Wife of Uriah).  And then there’s Mary.  None are the usual daughter, wife, and mother.  Nevertheless they are remembered.

Every clan has members like them.  Individuals who don’t quite fit the mold but who make life more memorable.  Unique human beings who add texture to the family story.  Unexpected people with different points of view.

When we let them, they show us other ways of seeing the world.  They help us better understand the human condition.  They may even teach us how to love more deeply, laugh more often, or live more authentically.

I invite you to think about your extended family.  Not just the relatives by blood or formal adoption.  But also the friends who are often like family.  How have they enriched your life?

Look around again, perhaps beyond the circle of family you have named.  Who doesn’t fit the mold but could use an extra friend today?  Is there some small way you can include them this holiday season?

With gratitude for family, Teressa

Advent: Blessing

When my mom was most active in researching her ancestry my husband said he thought his paternal grandfather must have been an outlaw of some sort.  He knew his grandfather’s name but had never heard stories about the man.  None.  Not a single one.  Which led my beloved to believe his father’s father was best forgotten.  Mom took it as a challenge. Now we know grandpa probably ran a dairy in Oklahoma City and likely came from a family with a long history in Pennsylvania.

John - Genealogical Chart

My beloved working on a genealogical fan chart for my mom.  12/21/12.  Photo: TLClark.

I wonder if Jesus heard stories about his grandparents.  Surely he didn’t know all those names recorded in Matthew 1:2-17 and Luke 3:23-38.  Fourteen generations times three in Matthew (see Matthew 1:17); a somewhat longer list in Luke.  The lists agree – mostly – for the generations from Father Abraham to the great King David.  After that, not much at all; from the name of David’s son in Jesus’ direct lineage to the name of Jesus’ grandfather (aka Joseph’s dad) the lists are quite different.

Does it matter?  Does it matter that there is a Zerubbable in one list and a Zadok is in the other?  I don’t think so.  Do we need to get them to line up – to harmonize them?  Definitely not.  The authors had their own agendas.*

Jesus is the son of David, the famous though flawed, best and beloved of Israel’s kings.  Things had definitely gone downhill since his rule.  As the book of Matthew begins, there’s a hint and a hope that Jesus, as part of that royal lineage, will bring about all that a kingdom is to be.

Jesus is also son of Abraham.  (Sing along if you know it: “Father Abraham had many sons…”.)  The first thing I remember about Abraham is that he was blessed to be a blessing (see Genesis 12:1-3)  Think about that for a moment.  Blessed to be a blessing.  Jesus, too, was blessed to be a blessing.

Have you counted your blessings lately?  The people that bring (or have brought) hope, love and joy into your life.  The big things we cannot live without – like breath and water.  The mundane but necessary – food, clothing, and shelter.  The little things that we too often take for granted.

How might you be a blessing today?  It could be something simple, perhaps eye contact and a smile to everyone you pass by.  It could cost a little or a lot, say a few dollars in a Salvation Army Red Kettle or generous check written to your favorite non-profit charity.  It might be a gift of time spent with one who is lonely or a hand-written note sent through the old-fashioned mail.  I hope you’ll use your imagination and act with kindness.

We are blessed.  And we are called to bless others.

Until next time, Teressa

p.s.  I was going to say something about the fact Luke’s genealogy ends with “[Jesus was] son of Adam, son of God.” But that felt like a sermon.  And I wanted to stay with the idea of blessing.

*I’ll tell you some of what comes to mind from my seminary days as well as sermon and Bible study prep over the years.  I could pull out the commentaries, do a little reading, and write about each author’s purpose.  But I’m not that interested – at least not today.

If you are interested, I recommend The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004).  It’s accessible, solid scholarship on the New Testament in one volume for those who want to know more but don’t want an entire library of commentaries.

Advent: Where to begin?

If you were to tell the story of Jesus, where would you begin?  Each of the four gospels included in the New Testament begins differently.

Matthew lists ancestors before getting to Jesus’ birth.

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  – Matthew 1:1 NRSV

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  – Matthew 1:18 NRSV

Mark forgoes any mention of birth, diving into Jesus’ life at the point of his baptism.

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. – Mark 1:1 NRSV

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  – Mark 1:9 NRSV

After a prologue telling us why the book is written, Luke starts the story with a priest and his wife.  Jesus doesn’t arrive until in the second chapter.

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah.  His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. – Luke 1:5 NRSV

And she [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. – Luke 2:7 NRSV

John begins at the very beginning and poetically refers to Jesus’ birth.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. – John 1:1 NRSV

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14 NRSV

I remember being a bit surprised when I realized that only two of the gospels include an account of Jesus’ natal day and they each have a unique take on what took place.  We’ll ponder those another day.

For now, note that Mark is all business.  No wasted words.  The really important thing about Jesus is not where he came from.  What is important is what he did and said and, crucially, where he ended up.  The other gospels don’t disagree; all four include the crucifixion.  (If I remember right, the crucifixion is one of just two stories found in all four gospels.  The other is the feeding of the five thousand).

So, where would you begin the story of Jesus?

Or, at a more personal level, where would you begin telling your own story or the story of one you love?  Birth?  Parents?  Ancestors?  Accomplishments?

Until next time, Teressa

Advent: Countdown to Christmas

‘Tis the season.  Christmas merchandise appeared on store shelves the day after Halloween.  Parades and football publicly marked Thanksgiving.  Black Friday, Small Merchant Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday have come and gone.  ‘Tis a countdown to Christmas.


The church counts down in an entirely different way.  Four Sundays of Advent.  One candle lit today; one more to be lit each Sunday.  A call to pause, to reflect, to prepare, to wait, to remember, to look forward.  Celebrating Christmas comes later.

Behind the scenes, pastors and church staffs and volunteers have been getting ready for weeks: finding new readings for lighting candles on the Advent Wreath, choosing hymns and anthems appropriate for waiting and watching (and sneaking in a Christmas carol?), making plans for the annual children’s Christmas pageant, getting lists for the Giving Tree, decorating the sanctuary, and so much more.  I’m so grateful for their commitment and their good cheer in this crazy season of high expectations.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about the Biblical Christmas story:  the people, the places, the creatures, the trips, the songs.  I’ve reread the stories as recorded in the gospels and started a list of questions and observations.

My goal this Advent is to go deeper into the stories, to take another look at what is told and what is left untold.  I plan to blog some of what I discover (or re-remember) along the way and hope you’ll join me for the journey.

Before we begin, I invite you to simply recall the story of Jesus’ birth – the setting, the characters, the words.   You’re welcome, of course, to turn to the gospel accounts.  But it’s certainly not required!

Until next time,  Teressa