It's Beginning to Smell a Lot Like Throw-up, Everywhere I Go
Okay, this is a terrible photo of photos, but I think it will serve its purpose, which is to show you how cute my little angels are. Just look at Sam. He looks so innocent and angelic. Oh, how deceiving photographs can be. But everytime I pass his little picture, it makes me want to go and squeeze him.
If everyone in our family was as sweet all the time as these two look here, being part of a family would be a breeze, would it not? There are moments in time where it's as easy as that, but there are much longer moments in between where it is definitely not. Can I get an amen?
I'll be honest. This is not my favorite way to wake up: "I think I'm gonna throw up!" immediately followed by previously ingested red Gatorade covering my bed. Being part of a family would certainly be easier if vomit was never involved. And taking care of sick kids in the middle of the Christmas season and all the fun events we have planned is not my favorite part of being a mommy. But it's the way it goes in a fallen world.
And now let me share with you one of my favorite passages from the Christmas story:
This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac.
Isaac was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar).
Perez was the father of Hezron.
Hezron was the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.
Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).
Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam.
Rehoboam was the father of Abijah.
Abijah was the father of Asa.
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat.
Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram.
Jehoram was the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah was the father of Jotham.
Jotham was the father of Ahaz.
Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh.
Manasseh was the father of Amon.
Amon was the father of Josiah.
Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon).
After the Babylonian exile:
Jehoiachin was the father of Shealtiel.
Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel.
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud.
Abiud was the father of Eliakim.
Eliakim was the father of Azor.
Azor was the father of Zadok.
Zadok was the father of Akim.
Akim was the father of Eliud.
Eliud was the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar was the father of Matthan.
Matthan was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.
All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.
Ha! Just kidding. (Be honest. Did you just scroll right through that whole list?) Who chooses that as their favorite Christmas passage? Let's face it. It didn't make the cut on Charlie Brown's Christmas, nor is it what we choose to read when gathered with family in the glow of the Christmas tree. I don't know of a song that has ever included these verses or any inspirational Christmas wall plaques with it plastered on them. It's just not so inspirational.
But I came across a few lines in a little book called The Christ of Christmas, which my friend gave to me, written by a late member of our church and a Christian scholar, Calvin Miller. He says, of these verses,
"...think of how God elevated the idea of family by choosing to work with one man's family to redeem the earth. These begat passages are not just names. They are the footprints of a timeless God walking through the generations, until His tread is reduced to the bare foot of the little baby Mary held in her arms."
Isn't that beautiful? It got me thinking about family. The family was the first institution established by God in the Garden of Eden, and he saw that it was good. But things weren't so good when the holy relationship of marriage was used to derail the course of mankind. And so the saga of family began. God says: Good. Satan says: Gotcha.
And ever since, God has been using family to further his plans, and so has Satan.
The Lord didn't have to plop the Messiah down in the middle of an earthly family. He could have teleported him here like a real-life version of Star Trek or had him ride in on a white horse like a magical fairy tale. He could have flown in like Superman or mysteriously appeared and then have been elevated to power by a military coup.
He had options. But he chose a simple little family. A family that hadn't even been officially formed yet, as Joseph and Mary hadn't even tied the knot, and a family that didn't look likely to thrive given the shady circumstances that surrounded it. A young unwed mother meets a nice but religious guy who scrapes together a living as a carpenter. Not exactly ideal.
Not only did he choose this little family, but he really chose all those families that had come before this young Jewish couple. We're all a product of generations past, and who doesn't have some sensational stories from great grandparents and beyond? This long line of names from the gospel of Matthew represents generation after generation of screw-ups. Some loved God in the midst of their messy lives and some did not. Some made good choices and some didn't. Some were kings and some were regular joes. Most were disfunctional in some way and none were perfect. Not until Jesus entered the picture.
Being a part of a family, whether your family begat the Messiah or not, is sometimes blessed but many times messy. Let's face it. Our homes during the holidays rarely look like the oil paintings with the dad, mom, and five kids sitting peacefully around the fire place with their elegant Christmas tree nearby, nor do they mirror songs like "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas". Right now, mine looks like my house threw up, along with my kid, who is now sitting on the couch with his siblings watching tv while I ignore them. Not exactly oil painting material.
It's hard to get along with our families during the best of times (though I must point out that Chris and I have been given great families), but add in the hectic hustle and bustle of the holidays and all the time we spend together, and it's nearly impossible. We think of ourselves, our expectations, and our desires, and that doesn't make for a fun holiday gathering. It's so easy for tempers to become short, irritation to easily find its way into our lives, and judgemental attitudes to pervade our homes. Our families and Christmas events can rarely live up to the perfect image we've created in our minds, and that just make us grumpy. Personalities clash and frustration abounds and before we know it, the holidays are ruined.
And, yet again, Satan has a field day. He's put a kink in the beautiful plan that the Lord has for families. He has brought disunity, selfishness, and pride to play in such a way that totally takes the focus off of the Baby we're supposed to be celebrating. While we're complaining about people, annoying the stew out of those around us, and exuding selfishness, the enemy is smiling.
We will never be perfect this side of heaven, and our family Christmases may never be postcard worthy, but we can experience the benefits of the Messiah that God placed in a little family long ago. He chose a family to bring about our salvation, and he chooses families to continue the spread of his work in this world. But first we have to choose him.
We have to choose humility, just like Mary, who laid down her plans and dreams to embrace God's. Like Joseph, who laid aside his reputation and chose to trust and love instead. Like Jesus himself, who stepped out of heaven straight into a feeding trough to bring hope to this fallen world and our failing families.
The Lord has challenged me to clothe myself with humility this holiday season and become a servant to others, just as Jesus became a servant to me. He has reminded me that our Christmas is much more likely to be all it was meant to be when I model my behavior after a baby in a manger.
It's a lot easier to serve needy strangers by donating a little time and money during this season than it is to serve the people God put in our lives and in our families. We will still give and do to help the less fortunate, but I think the Lord also wants us to give and do to help those in our living rooms this season. In remembering that family is a blessing and a huge part of God's plan, try putting family members before yourself during the next few weeks and see what God does. Try loving them instead of looking for ways they've failed to love you. And let the Prince of Peace do the thing he came to do...bring peace on earth and good will to men.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Colossians 3:12-16a