The story of Jesus did not just begin on Christmas day. It began much earlier. In part, this is the reason why the Gospels of Matthew and Luke start with genealogies. Matthew, in particular, starts with an unusual genealogy. In Matthew 1:1-6, He mentions four women (most genealogies mention only men) whose stories are not as positive as we would expect. In fact, they may even be considered shameful. In our cancel culture today, these women can easily be disregarded or even ostracized. But the story of Jesus redeems all our stories, no matter how negative they might be.
The Story of Tamar (Matthew 1:3; Genesis 38)
Tamar is the daughter-in-law of Judah. She married the eldest of Judah named Er. But since Er was wicked, he died early. Since it was required that the next of kin care for a brother’s widow, Tamar was given to Onan, Er’s brother, but he also died because of wickedness. Shelah, the youngest son of Judah, was still a boy and could not marry Tamar, so Judah asked her to return to her father’s house and wait until Shelah was grown up. However, once Shelah was old enough, Judah did not honor his promise. Tamar remained an unmarried widow. When she heard that Judah will visit Timnah to shear his sheep, Tamar then went into town disguised as a prostitute, tricked Judah, and got him to sleep with her. She then became pregnant by Judah and bore twin sons. Even though she had this negative background, God redeemed her story through the story of Jesus.
The Story of Rahab (Matthew 1:5; Joshua 2)
Rahab was a young Canaanite prostitute. She lived in Jericho, which was one of the principal seats of idol worship, being especially devoted to Ashtaroth, the goddess of the moon. Before entering the land west of the Jordan, Joshua sent two spies to look over the land. The king of Jericho heard that two Israelite spies were within his city and ordered them to be brought out to him. Rahab, the woman with whom the spies were staying, protected them by hiding them on her roof. She told them how the citizens of Jericho had been fearful of the Israelites ever since they defeated the Egyptians via the Red Sea miracle (some 40 years prior). She agreed to help them escape, provided that she and her family were spared in the upcoming battle. Even though she had this negative background, God redeemed her story through the story of Jesus.
The Story of Ruth (Matthew 1:5; Ruth 1)
Ruth was from Moab. She lived during the time of the Judges. She married the son of an Israelite family while they were living in Moab, but at some point, her father-in-law, her husband, and her husband’s only brother died. So Ruth had to make a decision whether to stay in Moab, her home, or to go with her mother-in-law, Naomi, to a land she had never known—Judah. Together, Ruth and Naomi made the journey back to Judah, to the city of Bethlehem, where they decided to settle. Ruth’s testimony spread, and Boaz, the owner of a nearby field, heard of her faithfulness and married her. Even though she had this negative background, God redeemed her story through the story of Jesus.
The Story of Bathsheba (Matthew 1:6; 2 Samuel 11)
Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David, while walking on the roof of his palace, saw her bathing. He inquired about her. Even though he knew she was married, he lusted after her and later made her pregnant. In an effort to conceal his sin, David summoned Uriah from a war campaign in the hope that Uriah would have sex with her and think that the child belonged to him. After repeated efforts to convince Uriah to have sexual intercourse with Bathsheba failed, king David gave the order to his general, Joab, that Uriah should be placed on the front lines of the battle, where Uriah would be more likely to die. After Uriah had been killed, Bathsheba mourned Uriah, but then David took Bathsheba into his house and made her his wife, and she gave birth. Even though she had this negative background, God redeemed her story through the story of Jesus.
These stories all point to one crucial truth: “Through Jesus, all our stories can be redeemed.” We may have sad and negative stories that we are ashamed of, but Jesus saves us and gives us a brand new story to tell. Those we know whose stories are also negative and shameful can receive new life in Christ Jesus. This is the wonderful message of Christmas.
- What part of your story are you ashamed of? Why?
- How does the Good News of the story of Jesus redeem your story?
- How would you retell your story now because of who Jesus is and what He has done for you?