“Christmas is the perfect season to ask ourselves whether our faith is merely a collection of theological facts we affirm or a living story we enter into and become a part of.”
Tom Gibbs, Covenant (Fall 2010/Winter 2011, p. 4)
As long as we’ve had children, we’ve never missed spending the holidays with relatives in Missouri. If we arrived late at night on Christmas Eve, as we carried our daughters through the front door, they would force their sleepy eyes open long enough to wonder at the magnificent Christmas tree with all its splendor of colored lights. Or better yet, we would arrive in time to attend the Christmas Eve service at the United Methodist Church — with its magnificent stained glass windows brightly illumined, beckoning us to come inside. In the following days, filled with more food than one can imagine, along with generous helpings of puzzles, games, blizzards, sleigh rides, snowmen and hot chocolate, our girls would bond with their cousins, and everyone would enjoy conversations long and short.
Christmas for us has always been a time for connecting with family. Last year we hauled out the old slide projector and spent a long evening together watching family slides going back half a century. These times together, as we remember passing years and generations, offer a great opportunity to update our family history records in Reunion software.
The genealogies of Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 are an ancient version of Reunion – a record of passing years and generations.
Read both accounts aloud. They don’t take THAT long, if the kids take turns. Explore them with your favorite study Bible or commentary. Discuss the following:
- With what person does Matthew begin? Why?
- Can you identify 5 women in Matthew’s genealogy?
- How many of these five women were Gentiles?
- How many of these five women were “respectable” people, with lives untouched by scandal?
- How many of the 14 ancestors Matthew lists in the final section (v. 12-16) were well known? How many were obscure, known only from this list?
- Who does Luke trace Jesus’ family history back to? Why?
- Identify one or more ways the genealogy recorded by Luke differs from that given by Matthew. Why might they have differed?
- What does all this suggest about the significance of our lives?
- Will you meet with family this Christmas?
- How do you preserve your family memories and genealogical history?
For those who pause long enough to take notice of them, these genealogies contain the essence of the gospel: salvation by grace (see especially points #3, 4 and 5).
There is no more effective “school of grace” than the family. This lesson comes home to us as new parents when we see ourselves in our own children. Then the realization dawns afresh, as we gain a deeper appreciation, of the grace that we ourselves called forth from our own parents. 😉
Sing: Sing your parents’ and grandparents’ favorite carols.
- Read aloud together:
- Andrew Peterson, The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats: An Unlikely Royal Family Tree (includes song)
- Gail Godwin, “Genealogy and Grace,” in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas (2001), pp. 159-167 (note: I omit reading aloud the last paragraph that begins on p. 162, and resume reading with the last paragraph beginning on p. 163.).
- “Where are you from?” Some profound reflections on the genealogies are found in this brief first chapter of Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives. It is an excellent resource for discussing the first eight questions above.
- Read for personal reflection: Francine Rivers, A Lineage of Grace: Five Stories of Unlikely Women Who Changed Eternity (Tyndale, 2009). An imaginative reconstruction of the lives of the five women in Matthew’s genealogy.
Our favorite gift that we distribute to all our relatives who gather for Christmas each year is a wall calendar that contains birth dates and wedding dates. This gift was economical enough that we could make it while I was in graduate school, and remains meaningful enough that we have continued it all through these years.