The Father of Jesus
1 This is the list of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, a descendant of David, who was a descendant of Abraham.
5 From Abraham to King David, the following ancestors are listed: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and his brothers; then Perez and Zerah (their mother was Tamar), Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon, Salmon, Boaz (his mother was Rahab), Obed (his mother was Ruth), Jesse, and King David.
11 From David to the time when the people of Israel were taken into exile in Babylon, the following ancestors are listed: David, Solomon (his mother was the woman who had been Uriah’s wife), Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, and Jehoiachin and his brothers.
16 From the time after the exile in Babylon to the birth of Jesus, the following ancestors are listed: Jehoiachin, Shealtiel, Zerubbabel, Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob, and Joseph, who married Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was called the Messiah.
17 So then, there were fourteen generations from Abraham to David, and fourteen from David to the exile in Babylon, and fourteen from then to the birth of the Messiah.
18 This was how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they were married, she found out that she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit.19 Joseph was a man who always did what was right, but he did not want to disgrace Mary publicly; so he made plans to break the engagement privately.20 While he was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived.21 She will have a son, and you will name him Jesus—because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 Now all this happened in order to make what the Lord had said through the prophet come true,23 “A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel” (which means, “God is with us”).
24 So when Joseph woke up, he married Mary, as the angel of the Lord had told him to do.25 But he had no sexual relations with her before she gave birth to her son. And Joseph named him Jesus.
It is December 21st. It is three days before Christmas Eve. That night we will be worshipping a seven o’clock in the evening to celebrate the birth of Jesus
Three more sleeps til Christmas Eve. Four more sleeps til Christmas Day.
We have arrived at Bethelehem. The baby is due real soon And so we are in the waiting room , waiting for the baby to be born.
I know what it is like to be in the waiting room. When our first child Kirsten, was due, we went to the hospital Thursday night, I think between 7 and 8 o’clock. I remember because Hill St. Blues was on and I wondered if we could wait til the end of the show, but one look from my mother-in-law made me realize, I didn’t want to pursue that line wondering any more.
Instead we went to the hospital and while Fiona was in Labour we waited all night. Kirsten was born
on Friday morning around 10:30. Surely one of the happiest moments of my life.
Most of us know what it is like to wait in the waiting room for the doctor to come out with news. It can be awful waiting, expecting, hoping, but with a bit of fear too.
So I suggest we do something that Matthew did while he waited for Jesus to be born. We are going to look at the genealogy of Jesus. We are going to talk a walk if you may through the cemetery and look at the headstones and find out who Jesus ancestors are…
I don’t know if you ever have read through the genealogy before or if you remember it being read in church. Well its there for a purpose I suppose, for the same reason in part we put up headstones in the cemetery.
So we are going to the graveyard of Jesus family for a stroll.
I don’t know about you, but I actually find cemeteries interesting. Maybe it is because of my calling. I have to go to cemeteries frequently. I don’t find them morbid or scary, but interesting and sometimes inspiring.
You know at the Edmonton Municipal Cemetery straddling 107th avenue several blocks west of here you will find some of Edmonton’s history recorded.
The largest marker in the cemetery is in the shape of a large cross and it bears this inscription:
To the memory of those who died for King and country in the Great War 1914-1918. And surrounding it on four sides are fairly plain headstones marking the graves of veterans of the First World War.
On the other side of the large marker it reads “Their name liveth for evermore”
The Second largest maker is in the shape of a Large Celtic Cross and is in memory of Henry Joseph O’Leary 2nd Archbishop of Edmonton, who was born in New Brunswick.
There is a children’s section there in the cemetery.
One of the markers there is to Jody Lynn Bolan “Love Bunny.”
In the same section another marker in memory of Dolly and Donna Evans, aged three years and two year, both died November 1945. It made me wonder what happened. Sickness or accident that claimed the life of these two children at the same time or roughly the same time.
If you walk around the cemetery you will see lots of markers for children especially from many year ago.
Oliver Louis eight months four days, Norney Peck one year three months
Some of them have poems with them
Douglas four years old
Our darling has gone the angels to join, we miss his bright face and heavenly smiles
God’s will has been done and we must prepare, To meet our dear Douglas in heaven so fair
Alastair Colcleuch 5 years old
Too sweet for the earth, he was taken above, up to his playground of sunshine and love.
And the oldest marker that I saw. Many of the old makers I could not read because the engraving was worn away.
The oldest I saw was also for a child.
Harry Lauder. Died in 1893 Aged 2 years
A light is from our household gone, a voice we loved is stilled
A place is vacant in our hearts, that never can be filled
Many of the markers in the cemetery have expressions of faith.
Safe in the arms of Jesus. He called the little children unto him. The Lord is my shepherd. There is another angel in heaven.
On a headstone for the Muttart family these sentiments:
It is as if a king gardener has transferred some shrubs from a narrow place to a vast region.
On another marker I saw one time in another cemetery
When death’s dark sea I ferry o’er, a time that surely shall come
in heaven itself I’ll ask no more, than just a highland welcome
One time I was in a cemetery in PEI and I saw a really interesting set of markers. Seven little markers about one foot high each. Mother, Father, Viola, Kate, Devon, Frank, Jane and Cahill.
I don’t know whether they died all together or separately, whether the children were all children or whether any of the children reached adulthood. I found it interesting and moving. My assumption was that possibly a disease or a fire wiped out a family of seven. Small markers with no dates or information, five names and mother and father.
At the municipal cemetery in Edmonton I saw markers not only in English but in Italian, Ukrainian, French and Latin.
And if you go through cemeteries you will notice that there are pictures on many of the gravestones. Crosses, flowers, trees, saints, angels, birds, maple leaves and churches are some of the most common. On a few of the more recent gravestones, some of the pictures are more personalized.
I have seen on gravestones: a truck, cars, planes, baby shoes, fishing boat, horse and buggy, hockey player, weight lifter, Chinese Pug dog, guitar, scissors and comb, wrench and vicegrips, bagpipes, curling stone, lighthouse, bingo card, pepsi bottle and a coloured engraving of a particular scene from a local golf course.
This is part of the heritage of Edmonton. I know of communities who every year have a memorial service in the local cemetery to remember those who have died not only in the last year, but all those buried in that cemetery.
Markers are put in cemeteries to help people remember.
And Matthew would like us to remember the ancestors of Jesus. So we go look at the markers in the graveyard that holds the family of Jesus
Some are very familiar. Abraham. That man of faith who followed God’s call to the Promised Land. He and his wife Sarah were too old for children and yet God promised him a child. And God delivered on his promise. They had a child Isaac. Isaac’s name is translated “laughter.” Because God had the last laugh on that one.
Isaac is in the cemetery as well as Jacob his son. Jacob was the father of Joseph the one who ended up as slave in Egypt. But Joseph is not in the cemetery. Instead it is his brother Judah. Judah has a large marker in the cemetery. From his name we get the words Judaism and the Jews. As well as a religion and a people the land around Jerusalem and Bethlehem was named after him: The Kingdom of Judah. Judah is also remembered because he was the brother who was ready to exchange positions with his brother Benjamin when Benjamin was accused of stealing.
Not as many women are mentioned in the ancestors of Jesus as men. I regret that very much but it was a male dominated society and we are still not there with equality yet. But there are women, more than what I might have expected. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba, even though she isn’t mentioned by name. What is interesting is that three of them had unsavoury reputions. Tamar pretended to be a prostitute to go to bed with her father-in-law. Rahab was a prostitute. Bathesheba had an affair with King David and when she got pregnant David arranged for her husband Uriah to be killed.
I suspect one of the reasons these women have markers is that these markers are there to remind us of the grace and forgiveness of God and that we are not to go around judging people who are not good enough. Jesus great, great, great, great… several greats grandmother was a prostitute???
The other reason these women are mentioned is that these women are not Jews. They basically are Arabs. Isn’t that interesting in this day and age. God’s love and grace are not for a chosen few, but his love goes out to all people.
We see God’s love and grace through these tombstones…and to reinforce that fact…. the largest marker in the whole cemetery is that of King David. The shepherd boy who slew the giant Goliath. The man of faith. The Warrior King who claimed the Promised Land and brought national security. The poet who wrote and sung many of our psalms.
But also a human who committed adultery and murder.
A sinner who cried: “Create in me a clean heart, O God”
A sinner who God forgave.
A father who had a child die in infancy and another son die in a rebellion against him.
Even the greatest of Jesus’ ancestors had pain, weakness and sin.
God forgive us all. Create in us clean hearts.
Following David comes a line of Kings. Some good, some bad, some not worth mentioning. Solomon the wise who turns out not to be as wise as everyone thought.
Asa and Jehosophat were good kings, loving god and following his ways.
Uzziah was king for over fifty years and ended up with leprosy. Manasseh was very evil and yet in the end repented. Josiah was in love with the scriptures, and reformed the kingdom.
Throughout the stories of the kings of Judah you find by the way in 2 Chronicles, we continually read editorial comments. This one served God. This one didn’t serve God. Isn’t it interesting, Kings were meant to serve and not be self-serving
Isn’t that supposed to be the way with us?
Last marker in the cemetery is that of Joseph.
The father of Jesus.
Hey wait a minute, you say. I don’t know all the kings, but I do know the story of Joseph. He wasn’t really the father of Jesus was he? At least not his biological Father.
So was he the father?
Well this is how the story goes. Joseph was engaged to Mary. Now in those day Engagements were a pretty big thing. You didn’t take your date out to a drive-in or a restaurant and pop the question. Engagement was a very serious thing. Two families came together and signed the papers and it was almost like marriage. You couldn’t get out of it without going to court. People were engaged for years, sometimes when they were young children and when they got old enough they would marry.
Joseph was engaged to be married to Mary and he finds out that she is pregnant. What should he do. He wants to do the right thing. Well, what is the right thing?
Well one option is to do what a lot of people do. You seek public opinion. Somerset Maugham said that the fundamental disposition of the human person in society to get the approval of the people around you.
So you go up to Tim Horton’s and over coffee you share your problem. “What should I do? You get on the phone with friends. What should I do? You talk it over at the ladies aid or at the Oilers game: what should I do?
Did you hear about Mary? What should I do?
But Joseph doesn’t do that. He doesn’t want to expose her or humiliate her or disgrace her.
Now a couple of his friends who have been studying the Bible at the synagogue say to him: “Just do what the bible says. You can’t go wrong if you do what the bible says”
You ever hear that one. Just do what the bible says. What about that for answer?
Well, you know what the bible says in Deuteronomy. It says take Mary out and stone her. That’s what the bible says.
And I am glad that Joseph didn’t do that. At times I am frustrated by people who think you can just open the bible up anywhere and find a verse and that will clear everything up, without reading the whole bible and its context. I can find you a verse to justify anything. Killing. Immorality. Self-righteousness. Slavery. Prejudice. Abuse. I can find you a verse to justify terrorism. Because it’s all in there.
Anybody can open the bible and find a verse to justify whatever they want.
But Joseph is a good man and he does something which is unusual for his time and sometimes for our time. He reads the scriptures and he knows the scriptures and he knows the central message of the bible is that God loves us. So he reads his bible in that context. That God is a God of love and mercy and grace.
Therefore he says of Mary. I will not hurt her, or abuse her, or ridicule her or shame her or demean her value or worth. I will protect her.
Where does it say that in the bible? It says that when you read the whole thing and find out the nature and character of God.
Joseph is the first person in the New Testament who really knows his scripture. He knows that we are to read it through the spectacles of a god who is kind and merciful. If in reading the bible you find just cause to humiliate, to abuse, to disgrace, to harm or to hurt, or even if you read it to make you feel better at the expense of another you are wrong.
The bible is to be read with the spirit of God who gives love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control.
That’s the way Joseph reads it.
So we are sitting here in the waiting room and we look over at Joseph and we are feeling pretty good. Because this baby is going to have a good earthly father. Is he really the father? Yes, because the angel said: Joseph, I want you to marry Mary. You feed the baby. You clothe. You raise the baby. You love the baby. You care for the baby. I want you to be father.
Christmas has all ready started because we know that when Jesus is born he is going to have an earthly father that will care for him, show him how to be a carpenter, teach him the scriptures and show him how to do right.
Joseph is a good man and it is obvious that Christ has all ready been born in him. When you have somebody like that it is already Christmas, and Christmas will last as long as God can find in every Community one person who says: “I will do what is right and loving.”
You see, what is right and loving, is to love and serve one another and to read the scriptures and understand the human condition in the light of the love and grace and kindness of God; and understand that primarily God wants us to love one another and not judge one another. As long as one person does that it will be Christmas. As long as one person does that Christ will come. The question, of course, is….
whether or not you will be that person.