Unwrapping the Gift
by Sharon Betters
For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (ESV)
Our kids call Chuck’s mother, Situ, Lebanese for grandmother. Situ is with Jesus but laughter often fills the room when family gathers and we share Situ memories. Every Christmas, someone reminds us that Situ refused to tear the paper wrapping her gifts. She came from the generation that kept pantries filled with canned goods, “just in case”. No amount of cajoling could get her to spend an extra dollar in order to save time, and tearing up wrapping paper that could easily be reused felt wasteful to her. I think she took her time unwrapping her gifts for another reason. She savored the anticipation, mystery and fun of opening a package chosen by a loved one just for her. Her life was not easy and such moments stirred up joy and contentment, especially when surrounded by her family.
As we pull back the curtains to get a glimpse into the lives of the five “midwives of the Messiah” let’s be like Situ and take our time to savor the moment of discovering the gifts that a wounded widow, a professional prostitute, an indomitable immigrant, a bathing beauty and a terrified teenager offer to us. The wrapping on the gifts they offer is not fancy and in fact, some think it’s quite dull, yet if we are patient we’ll discover priceless treasures tucked away.
We find these five women all in one place in Matthew 1, the genealogy of Jesus. For a long time, I considered this chapter so boring! Now I realize each person’s story is a key step toward the fulfillment of God’s promise to send the Messiah. The fulfillment of God’s promise of the Messiah did not take place by accident. God planned out every detail to ensure the birth of Jesus, His one and only Son. There were specific requirements for the lineage of the Messiah and this genealogy is an outline of a remarkable, seemingly impossible fulfillment of each of those requirements. Matthew 1 is a summary of that incredible journey from Genesis 1 to the first Christmas. Each person contributes something specific to the birth of Jesus. Priceless treasures of faith fill this chapter. Each person’s story encourages, equips and energizes us to choose to believe that God is sovereign and we can trust Him, even in the darkness.
As you unwrap this gift, you learn that Jesus had close relationships with other human beings. He didn’t just suddenly appear in the sky, but instead came to earth through the line of a known family. He took His place in that family. A family tree like this reflects intimate relationships. It is a picture of the covenant family.
Jesus’ family knew God would send a Messiah but most likely didn’t know that He was keeping this promise through each detail of their messy lives, just as you and I do not know how God’s eternal plan is flowing through us and our lives. Their stories encourage me to trust that every detail of my life, including the death of our son, Mark, has eternal significance as well.
We may never know on this side of heaven how our walk of faith is impacting the next generation. Perhaps what you see as mundane or just normal and sometimes boring family life is actually the place where God is raising up one who will impact the world with his or her passion for Jesus.
So today let’s start with the gift of salvation, provided by our faithful and loving God through His precious and perfect son, Jesus. Is your faith generic or personal? Do you understand the difference between a superficial relationship to an impersonal God and a relationship of intimacy with our loving God through His Son, Jesus? God promises that when we acknowledge our need for a Savior, repent of our sins and ask Jesus for forgiveness, He will forgive us. He promises that from that point on, His Son lives in us and nothing – nothing at all – can pull us out of His grip. Is this the gift that God wants to give to you this Christmas?
If you know Jesus personally, do you long to trust God with all the details of your life, to know that He is not surprised by any of the messiness or broken places? Ask the Lord to use the lives of the midwives of the Messiah to seal this truth into your heart: God is sovereign and I can trust Him.
Lord, You designed Your word to come alive in the hearts of Your children. Today we ask You to shine a spotlight on one detail that helps us trust that You are sovereign and we can trust You.