Jesus’ Back Story: The Women of Christmas
Before you get to the manger, a long list of names interrupts the Christmas story. Look closely at that list of “begats’ in Matthew and four names will pop out as unusual. Gentile names—who normally wouldn’t belong in a proper record of Jewish heritage. Certainly not in a kingly line.
But there they are. Gentiles. And women, nonetheless.
The first, Rahab. She lived in Jericho at the time when the children of Israel were ending their long walk from Egypt when rumors of invasion worried those who lived on the walls of the city. Perhaps if we knew more of her story, we’d understand how Rabah ended up in this desperate life (she’s known as “the harlot.”) All we know is the spies sent by Joshua went in her window and she protected them, instead of herself. As it happens, they ended up saving her and her family. Later when asked by her grandchildren why she let that red rope out her window as a signal, she said she had heard about the Messiah and just knew this was the way she could get pulled in. (Read Rahab’s story in Joshua 6.)
The next name in Matthew’s genealogy, surprisingly, is Rahab’s daughter-in-law, Ruth.Though their stories are rarely linked, Ruth married Rahab’s son, Boaz. Ruth from Moab—which is like saying Ruth, from the filthy part of town. No one dared say that to the faithful girl who survived her own share of grief and came out all the sweeter. She left her own home to take her mother-in-law, Naomi back to Bethlehem. Two widows, one old and bitter, one tender and young, walked into town and everyone noticed. Especially attentive was the eligible bachelor, Boaz. And the romancing of the most divine kind commenced. Years later, Naomi’s joy was restored when she bounced her sweet grandson on her knee, the boy who would be the grandfather of King David himself. (Read Ruth’s story in the short book of Ruth.)
But that almost didn’t happen. Back in Genesis when all the attention was on Joseph and his coat of many colors, Jacob’s oldest son, Judah, was weary of all the family drama. So much so he almost broke the line from Adam to David by refusing his daughter-in-law, Tamar, twice a widow by his two sons, the right to have a child by his third son. Rather than risk it (“she’s bad luck!”) he pushed her aside. Perhaps Tamar knew, beyond her own needs, what a mistake this was and figured out a plan to keep the family line going. As shady as we think that plan was, it was exactly what Judah needed to wake up. Later, he called Tamar a blessing, worthy of honor and her grandchildren would name their little girls after her. (Read Tamar’s story in Genesis 38.)
And the last woman we read of only as David’s wife, but we know it’s Bathsheba. How much she was victimized or how much she cooperated in David’s ugly sin, we don’t know. All we know for sure is his story became hers and her life with Uriah was gone. Instead, she ended up in the palace, married to a man overwhelmed by guilt. From Bathsheba, we learn that even when sin separates us, God doesn’t give up His own. Instead, when we ask Him, He creates new hearts from shattered pieces. As for David and Bathsheba—the child of their child a thousand years yet future would die to make them whole. That Redeemer of every man’s story would be everything David dreamed about and more. (Read Bathsheba’s story in 2 Samuel 11.)
The red thread through every story? Faith in God. Beyond the grief, the guilt, the poverty of their lives, these women in Jesus’ line believed God. Somehow. We’re not certain how but we know in the end, their wounds healed. And He wanted His grace—and their stories—to go on record.
Cr. One On One: 100 Days With Jesus–ADVENT