john davies
notes from a small curate



    From generation to generation

    Holy Trinity Advent Reflection 02/12/03

    Luke 1.50, Matthew 1.1-15

      He has mercy on those who fear him,
      from generation to generation.

    One thing that's fascinating about Jesus' family tree is that it shows us there were a lot of skeletons in Jesus' cupboard.

    In among that list we've just read were:
      Two men who tried to palm off their wives as their sisters;

      One man who fathered a child by his daughter-in-law;

      A number of serial bigamists;

      A closet bisexual;

      A monarch who handed out ordination certificates as if they were Jelly Babies (Jeroboam, 1K.13)
    There are also four women in the list:
      Tamar, "The Harlot by the Side of the Road", who failed to produce a child by her first husband, nor by her second husband, the brother of the first, nor by the third brother, who wasn't interested in conception, and so she went into prostitution and eventually became pregnant by one of the men who had intercourse with her, who happened also to be her father-in-law.

      Rahab - also a prostitute, who betrayed her own people by entertaining spies and allowing them to reconnoitre the city;

      Ruth - who made a very old man very happy;

      Bathsheba - who committed adultery with a Peeping Tom who saw her bathing nude.

    If you put all these stories together you realise that Jesus didn't have a noble lineage.

    Why, we might ask, are there so many skeletons in Jesus' cupboard?

    I was in a session at Greenbelt some years ago when the geanealogy of Jesus was read out and every time a woman's name was mentioned it stopped and someone spoke about that woman's story. Afterwards a woman came up to the person who'd been leading the session and told him her story.

    She'd had a difficult life. She said she hoped that one day her son could hear the gospel read and talked about the way it had been there, because, before she was a Christian she had been a prostitute. Her son was 7 years old, "When he's older," she said, "I want him to know what I was; and I also want him to know that within the family tree of Christ there is a place for people like me."
      He has mercy on those who fear him,
      from generation to generation.
    Within the family tree of Christ there is a place for people like Mary. When Mary realised that she had a place in God's family tree she knew she had received God's mercy. As Janet reminded us last week, the circumstances of his birth looked very dubious to all the street-corner gossips at the time, but because Mary believed in God's mercy she chose to give birth to Jesus; and that means we too can now live in the mercy of God.

    Tonight Mary's words remind us that within the family tree of Christ there is a place for people like us. Flawed, imperfect people, just like those who have gone before us in our family trees, just like those who will follow in our stumbling footsteps. Regardless of our faults and failings, he has mercy on those who fear him, from generation to generation.


    Prayer / Reflection

    Let us spend some time now, as the music plays, reflecting on what these words of Mary mean.

    Thinking of Jesus' family tree, from what a mixture of people the Son of God was descended;

    Thinking of our own family tree, from what a mixture of people we have come;

    Reflecting on the words of Mary, he has mercy on those who fear him, from generation to generation.

    Giving thanks to God for his mercy, as we have seen it coming down to us in the lives of those who have gone before;

    Holding before God the future generations, our children, grandchildren and the children of the world to come, sharing with God our fears for them, offering God our hopes for them, asking God to show his mercy to them all ...



    NOTES
    Talk based on John Bell: 10 more things they never told me about Jesus, talk, Greenbelt 2002.