It Wouldn't Be Christmas Without... Part.1
Matthew 1:1-2, 16 1 This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham: 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob. 16 Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.
I want you filling out the blank with me. I don’t want you to say out loud, but finish the sentence, It wouldn’t be Christmas without…. I googled to see what people think it wouldn’t be Christmas without. Here’s some thoughts that I found online. The first one was a really unsuitable present. Usually we get a really horrible clothing, or at least three size too small t-shirt. Or it wouldn’t be Christmas without a hungover dad who is aimlessly wandering in the living room with a bin bag collecting wrapping papers.
It wouldn’t be Christmas without getting up at 5 am because of kids who are jumping on your face. Or it wouldn’t be Christmas without chewing carrots all day, or tangerine even though no one in your family likes tangerines. Or little scream in the too hot kitchen. Always someone in the family gets burned when they do something with the oven or stove top, right? This year Alexa and I got a nativity set for outside. We got the set last week, so we built it. The nativity set was way taller than we thought and kind of poorly made, which was very disappointing. But we built it anyway and put it out at the front yard. And then this whole week we had strong wind. The tall and poorly made nativity set has kept always falling. Every morning it was on the ground and all the nails to fix that to the ground were missing. Every morning what I did was go out, set up the nativity set again and look for the nails all over the places. So to me this year it wouldn’t be Christmas without setting up the nativity set every morning.
Also, it wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas worship services, particularly Christmas Eve Candle light service, right? Specially we are going to have Holy Communion at the Christmas Eve service. It will be beautiful. About two years ago, I went to Rochelle UMC for their midnight Christmas Eve service. At the service they sung the communion liturgy to the tune of greensleeves. It was fantastic. Beautiful! So I asked the associate pastor at the church to give me the liturgy. This year we will do the sung communion at our Christmas Even service. It will be beautiful. You will fall in love with our Christmas program.
Children’s Christmas program is also a really important part of Christmas worship services. It wouldn’t be Christmas without our kids singing, playing and making mistakes at the Christmas program. Their program is a lot cuter when they make mistakes, isn’t it? When I was in Korea, I was a youth pastor at a local church. And all the kids from kindergarten kids to high school kids had Christmas program together. It was really fun. And specially when the younger ones, the babies come for their play or their special music, it is always more fun there. That night the light was off, and the youngest ones of the church came to the altar and got ready for their song. When the light came back on, all people burst into laugh because there was 4 year old boy standing up front picking his nose, right under the bright spot light. People were all laughing and his parents got really embarrassed with their son relentlessly picking his nose in front of hundreds of people. Everyone was looking at him at the moment. What made the situation funnier was he finally got something out of his nose with his second finger and that was a loose discharge between his nose and finger. The son had a moment of reflection on it and he scrubbed his finger on the other kid’s back who was standing before him. I don’t remember nothing but only that moment from that night. It wouldn’t be Christmas without those kinds of precious moments.
Every year, actually the worship programs are almost same. The same story of Mary and Joseph, the same innkeeper and magi, sometimes we add donkeys and camels to the play, but basically we sing and talk about the same nativity story. It is an old story that church has been talking for over two thousand years now. But we need to hear it fresh every year. Every year we hear the same Jesus’ birth story, but you know what? I learn new things every year when I look at the story again. I think this is our prayer of this time as we are coming fast to Christmas. This is the third verse of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Can we sing together? (slide 1) O Holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray Cast out our sin and enter in Be born to us today. “Be born us, when?” Today. My hope is during this Christmas season, this Advent season, as we look at this old ancient story, Jesus and his birth, it won’t be just remembering what happened two thousands years ago, but he will be born in us today.
Another really important part that makes Christmas special is family. I’d like to start this two Sunday’s sermon series with family. Can we just be honest here? Families can be weird. Families can be a real messed up. Families can be very dysfunctional. Families are a mixed bag of blessings and hurt.
Seriously, when we look at our families, we soon find there are some dysfunctional components in our families. I am sure every family has it. Every family has a black sheep that is unhealed wound for all family members. Atticus in the famous “To kill a mockingbird” says it best. “You can choose your friends but you sure can’t choose your family, and they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ‘em or not…” We cannot think about Christmas without family, right? But even though it wouldn’t be Christmas without family, we also acknowledge that family is hard to navigate.
Now let’s think about Jesus’ family because his family story can help us have a better understanding of our own family issues. So the question that I’d like to discuss with you is “Why shouldn’t my family dysfunction ruin my Christmas?”
Among the four gospels, Matthew tells us Jesus’ birth story through Joseph’s lineage. Mark skips this all together. He just starts when Jesus is about 30. And Luke starts his story through Mary, her family. John gives a cosmic account about Jesus’ coming. Today we will look at Matthew. Matthew starts with Joseph’s genealogy. Matthew explains 42 ancestors of Jesus here. Why does Matthew start his book with this boring genealogy? When I came to Coleta and Milledgeville for the first time, and when you try to explain someone to me, you guys all start with who is their father or mother, and who is related to whom… It is always really fun to listen to how you explain someone to me. I can hear at least three generations of the person at once. So we all know that knowing our roots are really important. It was the same in Jesus’ time. Genealogy is matter in the Gospel of Matthew, because he wants us to know about how Jesus is. And Jesus’ lineage tells us why we shouldn’t let our family dysfunction ruin our Christmas. Please fill up the blank in your soul feast.
(slide 6) First, Jesus was born into a dysfunctional family.
If you are God, the parents of one precious son, and need to send him to a family, what family would you pick for your son? Probably you will pick a most privileged, rich family, right? But Not our God. Can we read out loud? “2 Abraham was the father of Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.” You know, last summer we had a sermon series about our faith fathers. Abraham, Issac, Jacob and Joseph. They all were so weird. Abraham took his wife’s handmaiden for a son. Then he cast them away because then he had a son from his wife Sarah. Issac favored one son over another son, and his wife Rachel favored the other son over another. Jacob deceived everyone including even himself. He also favored the youngest so the other ten sons tried to kill their own brother. Joseph had to live in a far land because his brothers sold him into slavery. And Judah, one of Jacob’s twelve sons. This is in the Bible. I am not making it up. Judah slept with his daughter in law who disguised as a prostitute. I promise you it is in the Bible. It is not in a soup opera. Jesus was born into this dysfunctional family. To add salt to a wound, Matthew writes four women in Jesus’ genealogy. Tamar. She was the daughter in law, who slept with her father in law disguised prostitute. Then there is Rahab. Rahan was a Canaanite Prostitute. Ruth. She was from Moab. She was Moabites. They were a hated enemy of Israelites. Then there is Bathsheba. Do you remember her? She was one that King David took forcefully from her husband. Here is the good news of Christmas. Jesus was born into a real messed up, crazy, strange, screwed up family. Jesus’ father was a good man, but he was not his real father. And his mother thought she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. What is that? Who can believe what Mary told about her pregnancy?
Yet, Jesus was born the rightful King of the universe. Have you watched the Macy’s Christmas parade on TV? Do you know who’s coming at the end of the parade? The grand finale of the show? Santa! Look at what the Scripture says. Let’s read out loud. “16 Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary—of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Christ.” (Matt. 1:16 NLT) The Christ, the Savior, the rescue, and the king! In spite of all those messed up stuff, God uses the family to send the King of the Universe into the world. Isn’t that amazing? Jesus’ family has all kinds of wounds that no one feels proud of and wants to talk about it at Christmas table. But God used the family to make the Savior born into the world to save the world. Jesus has the messed up family like you and I do. If God used the family for Jesus, why not our families? Despite all the wounds and tragedies that we have in our families, the bitterness that we cannot let it go easily, God can use us, our family for a good thing like God did with Joseph’s family for Jesus, to save us. One of my favorite contemporary Christian music is Hilsong’s “What a beautiful Name” This song says, “You didn’t want Heaven without us. So Jesus, you brought heaven down. My sin was great, Your love was greater. What could separate us know.” Heaven came crashing into earth with Jesus. Majesty in a manger. Holiness in the hay. God became flesh among us. That is the good news.
In this season, the season of waiting for Baby Jesus’ coming into our lives, let’s hope and let’s pray that God uses us, God uses our family despite of all the wounds that we contain in us, in our family. Let God heal our brokenness, and let God works within us. Let God make something good our of our bitterness, our wounds, our brokenness. Thanks be to God. Amen.