Sunday, December 25, 2016

A short carol service sermon - Who Do You Think You Are? Jesus' family tree

 Carol Service Sermon 2016

I don’t know if you’re a fan of the family history programme, Who Do You Think You Are?

The latest 13th series is currently showing.

It opened with East Enders actor, Danny Dyer, tracing his ancestors back to the Norman Conquest. 

My aunt has tried to trace our family history.

Amongst the Lloyds, she could only get as far back as Thomas Lloyd, who was an iron puddler, born around 1822 in South Wales and his father Thomas, who was a coaker.

If you know what a coaker is, perhaps you’d tell me afterwards.

I’d be very interested for the 1st time, perhaps less so after the 50th person!

As far as I know, there was nothing especially remarkable about the Lloyds.

Who Do You Think You Are? thrives on surprising revelations.

For a really good family tree, you want some royalty.

And a few black sheep.

People often find it very moving to discover their family history, and it can make a real difference to them.

The Bible gives us accounts of Jesus’ family tree.

I didn’t have them read because I thought I’d spare you all that begetting and long lists of hard to pronounce names.

But they would make a wonderful Who Do You Think You Are?

There’s royalty, and a few dodgey characters.

And it ought to make a difference to us.

The very fact that the Bible tells us Jesus’ family tree, reminds us that when it comes to the Christmas story, we’re in the realm of history.

Jesus’ birth was in Bethlehem in Judea in the days of Ceasar Augustus, when Quirinius was the governor of Syria.

It’s wasn’t “once upon a time in a land far, far away”.  

This is not a fairy story, or myth, or make-believe.

The nativity is not just a beautiful story designed to teach us lessons about life.

Christmas is not just for the kids!

Here is good news of God entering human history in a specific time and place, as part of a specific family, with a troubled history.

It’s a family tree with royalty.

Jesus is a descendant of the greatest Biblical king of all, King David.

In fulfilment of prophecy he is born in Bethlehem, the city of David.

David had been promised that one of his sons would have an everlasting kingdom.

As we read from the prophet Isaiah, this child who would be born would reign for ever on David’s throne with justice and righteousness.

Jesus is that promised rescuer-king, who would put the world to rights.

Jesus is also a descendant of Abraham, the great founding father of the people of God in the Bible.

Jesus is the seed or offspring of Abraham, through whom God had promised that all the nations of the world would be blessed.

The Bible even traces Jesus’ family tree right back to Adam.

The Bible is stressing that Jesus, although he’s God, is also a real human being.

His birth is for the whole of humanity, for all the nations.

Jesus will a new and better Adam.

He’ll be faithful where Adam failed.

He will un-do the effects of Adam’s sin for all those who put their trust in him.

We are all children of Adam, but we can all be included in Jesus, the New Adam, by faith.

There are some other surprises in Jesus’ family tree.

A number of women are mentioned, which would have been unusual in those days.

And Jesus’ family tree includes a number of Gentiles, non-Jews, who weren’t members of God’s chosen people, Israel.

Jesus’ family means to include those whom others would exclude.

His family is open to all who will come to him.

And there’s scandal in Jesus’ family too.

We spoke about great king David.

But Jesus’ family tree refers to him as: David, the father of Solomon, “whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.”

Therein lies a tale!

Jesus’ family tree deliberately brings up one of the most shameful incidents in the Bible.

Uriah was one of David’s closest friends, to whom he owed his life.

Yet, when Uriah was away fighting David’s wars for him, David took his wife and then arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle to cover his tracks.

David was a murderer and an adulterer.

And the Bible wants us to notice that.

Jesus’ family tree includes Rahab the prostitute.

It mentions:

“Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar” (Mt 1v3)

Now I realise that might be taxing your Sunday School knowledge a bit!

In fact, they probably left out this story as rather unsuitable.

Tamar had been wronged by her father in law, Judah, so she tricked him into sleeping with her, so that she might have a child.

East Enders has nothing on that, does it?

Why bring these skeletons out of the cupboard and show them off?

The family Jesus is from tells us the family he came for, the family he came to form.

Jesus is born into a family that’s all too human, that’s sometimes messed up and dysfunctional.

But the Bible doesn’t cover up these dark family secrets.

It’s because of them that Jesus came.

He joins us in our predicament to sort it out.

He comes as a Saviour – to a family with issues, a problem family - to rescue and forgive.

Jesus joined our family so that we might join his.

He became a human being so that we might become children of God.

Whatever our background or pedigree, whoever we are, whatever we’ve done, Jesus invites us to join his family as his beloved brother and sisters, restored and forgiven.

As we just read from John’s gospel:

“To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave us the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision, … but born of God.” (1v12f)

Who do you think you are?

The Bible would say we are all members of Adam’s fallen family.

But Jesus came to be our brother.

He welcomes all who will put their trust in him to be children of God in his renewed family.

The great question of Christmas is how we will relate to Jesus who is the Saviour, Christ the Lord.

May God bless you and your family, this Christmas. Amen.

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