There is an edginess out there. A trepidation. A fear. Society seems like straw near a burning match. Combustible.
Anger marches in our city streets.
Anger marks the cable news.
Some folks don't like the government. Others don't like the candidates. It's as if we're crammed onto a subway train with an unclear destination.
Maybe we need an early Christmas. It's only October, I know. Too soon for lights, trees, and sales. They'll be here soon enough. But it is not too soon for the message of the manger.
It's been on my mind over the last few days. I just released a book called: Because of Bethlehem. I wrote it over a year ago, and just recently thumbed through the pages. I turned off the presidential campaign noise and turned to the Joseph/Mary narrative. I was reminded how Christ came to Bethlehem. A scandalous pregnancy, an imposed tax burden, an untimely trip, and an overcrowded inn. In spite of it — in the midst of it all — God triumphed in Mary's story.
And he triumphed in Matthew's genealogy. We don't often mention the lineage of Jesus in the context of his birth. Matthew did, however. He opens his Gospel with a list of 42 names. Before he presents the wise men and the Star of Bethlehem, he tells us that: "Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram" (Matthew 1:2-4).
The list goes on and on (and on) for 16 verses. "Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon" (vs. 5, 6). Yawn. Let's skip to the nativity story! Who needs to know about Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth? Why does Matthew mention David and Solomon before he mentions Joseph and Mary?
He is making a point. Chaos cannot keep Christ out of His world. The Messiah was born, not because of his ancestors, but in spite of them. Tamar was abandoned. Ruth was an immigrant and Rahab was a harlot. David was an adulterer. Solomon was a philanderer. The family tree of Jesus was gnarly and crooked. Some of the kings were bloodthirsty and godless. Yet God had promised that Jesus would come, and Jesus came. Hence the triumphant conclusion of the genealogy: "Jacob was the father of Joseph, who married a woman named Mary. It was Mary who gave birth to Jesus, and it is Jesus who is the Savior, the Anointed One" (Matthew 1:16 Voice).
In spite of sin and scandal, Christ came.
In spite of racism and sexism, Christ came.
Though the people forgot God, Christ came.
In spite of, and out of, the pandemonium, Christ came.
The surprise pregnancy, the sudden tax, the long road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Unpleasant and difficult, yet resulting in the world's greatest miracle. "And [Mary] brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger" (Luke 2:7). Everything happened so this moment would happen.
Don't we need that reminder? It's a crazy world, for sure. But our God has a track record that is worthy of our attention. Turn your attention to Him. In our world of short nights, hard work, and high stress, don't we need to know that Jesus holds it all together?
Maybe we need an early CHRISTmas this year.