December 4, 2016
I had a friend from church when I was young
who’s sister got pregnant and once she started to show,
her parents took her out of high school
and sent her away for six months to have the baby.
I think they told everyone that she was
in a study abroad semester.
Everyone knew somehow, but no one talked about it,
because it was church, and you’re not supposed to talk
about these kind of things at church.
I probably shouldn’t be talking about this now.
You know, since we’re in church and all.
We just don’t talk about those kind of
messy and scandalous things in church.
Which is ironic, because it’s a pretty important
part of the story of Jesus.
It’s right here, at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel,
the first page of the New Testament.
A scandalous story.
“The birth of Jesus the Messiah
took place in this way…
When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”
She was engaged to one person but
she was pregnant with someone else’s child. Scandal!
Sure we know it was the Holy Spirit,
but who was going to believe that?
It’s kind of amazing that Joseph believed that angel
that came to him in a dream. Or at least he was persuaded
to take Mary as his wife and see where it all went.
Because this was a humiliation for him.
If Joseph had dismissed Mary quietly, she still would have
been pregnant and unwed and she and her child would
probably have ended up living in a brothel
which would have added a special twist
to the story of Jesus, but I digress.
The people reading and telling these stories for the first
time would have known how scandalous this story was,
But we’ve domesticated them over a couple of thousand
years and we’ve made it cute for the children.
But this was real life, gritty, messy life and these
real things that happened to real people all the time.
Matthew makes it obvious,
right from the beginning of his gospel
that this not some cute white-washed fairy tale.
Matthew starts his gospel, like a lot of Old Testament books start,
with Jesus genealogy: this one was the father of that one
and that one was the father of this one.
Usually we skip over the genealogies, because
they sound boring and long,
But Jesus genealogy is pretty interesting if you take the time
I’ll read you just the first part:
An account of the genealogy* of Jesus the Messiah,*
the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob,
and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar,
and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram,
and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon,
and Nahshon the father of Salmon,
and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab,
and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth,
and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah,
and Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
and Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Uriah’s wife
Four women are included in Jesus genealogy.
Typically the genealogy is traced through the men
Now it’s not absolutely unheard of that some women are mentioned
but it is kind of unique that there are four.
Each of these women is a familiar character in the Hebrew
scriptures and just saying their names,
it would conjure up a full story in the head to someone familiar,
And the people in Matthew’s time
would have known them intimately.
Each of these women have very interesting stories.
Stories like the ones that you’re not supposed
to talk about in church. But we’ll do it anyway.
Tamar married one of Judah’s
sons but he died before they had children
She wanted her children to be in Judah’s lineage, so
disguised herself as a prostitute and tricked Judah,
her former father-in-law, and as a result,
she gave birth to his sons Perez and Zerah who are in this genealogy.
Rahab was a real prostitute, and a gentile
she used her wits to help the Israelites when they came to Jherico.
She eventually married an Isrealite named Salmon
and they had a son named Boaz.
Ruth was probably the most noble of the list,
she was a gentile who married into an Israelite family
after her husband died, she stayed
take care of her mother in law Naomi
She saved them both from starvation
by seducing and marrying Boaz,
Rahab’s son and Naomi’s wealthy older cousin.
She had a son named Obed who was the grandfather of David.
Then of course, there was Bathsheba, who,
as Matthew reminds us was Uriah’s wife – not originally the wife of King David,
when David saw her bathing on a roof top and called for her,
and then had her husband killed when they found that she
was pregnant with his child.
She was the mother of Solomon.
Talk about a line of scandals.
This is how the whole New Testament starts
this is the story of Jesus of Nazareth.
People knew the stories of each of these great ancestors,
and Matthew used the unusual additions of these women
to remind people that everything
about their own beloved ancestry was not all pure and
innocent it was not without its own scandals.
Matthew is preparing the reader.
After humbling them and reminding them
of their nation’s own interesting past, they are ready
to hear the next story:
“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way:”
And the scandal of Mary and Joseph and their own drama ensues.
We are waiting for God,
waiting for Jesus to come again.
Most of us look for the holy and pure to find God.
The absolutely peaceful, the places without sin or scandal.
But that’s not how our own lives are.
Our own lives are interesting, scandalous, not without sin
because of that, sometimes we think
that God will have no business working through us.
God would have no business even being around us.
But this story tells us different.
God can not only forgive the scandals of our families and our lives,
God can work through them. God wants to use them.
The things that we have considered unholy
and too shameful for God, they don’t’ even ruffle God’s feathers.
God loves to use them to show that nothing and no one is
too-far-gone for God’s attention.
In Jesus Christ, God entered our world,
with all our problems and fears and worries,
God took it all on: all the stinky alley ways and and the
smelly garbage, and the poopy diapers.
Jesus is here with us in all of it.
Jesus the Christ the savior –
A child born of a scandal out of a line of scandals
Who would live outside of society’s norms.
Who would die in a scandalous way
to show that God is not above any scandal of our life or times.
As the angel told Joseph:
"Mary, the young woman you’re engaged to
will conceive and bear a son
and they will name him Emmanuel,
which means God is with us.”
God is with us. In our life
not in that sentimental, greeting card,
saccharine - sugary sweet visions of sugar plumbs
dancing in their head kind of way but really with us.
God is with us
in every hushed story and whispered secret
in every shame and scandal,
in every story that’s been told behind our backs.
In everything that we’re not supposed to talk about.
As the Angel said to Joseph,
“Do not be afraid.”Whatever happens,
I promise you, God can deal with all this. God has seen a lot worse.
Does someone you know have a scandal in their life?
Do you have a scandal in your life?
God can handle it.
Maybe even better than that,
God can use it, and you, in God’s plan.
God is with us.
No matter what.