Just before she passed away, my great-grandmother, who was from the Greek island of
Rhodes, recounted her whole family tree to my mother. It was very important for her to let
the family know who our ancestors were. Why? Because our ancestors can teach us
something about ourselves. At the beginning of the Christmas story in the Gospel of St.
Matthew, we read about Christ’s ancestors. Against the custom of his time, St. Matthew
mentions five women from whom Christ descended. These five women can teach us about
the reasons for which Christ came at Christmas.
The first woman mentioned is Tamar, who was daughter-in-law of the patriarch, Judah.
Tamar’s husband died without giving her children. This put Tamar in a desperate situation;
she had no family, no means of support. Yet through God’s providence, Tamar became an
ancestor of Christ. This story teaches us that Christ came to give us hope. Like Tamar, we are
all hopeless without Christ; but Christ’s coming gives us hope.
The second woman mentioned is Rahab, who was known for her sinful lifestyle. Yet, Rahab,
a sinner, was given the honour of being an ancestor of the Messiah Why? Because she turned
from her wrong actions and believed in God. Therefore, she was forgiven and accepted into
God’s family. Rahab’s story teaches us that Christ came to forgive sinners and to accept them
into God’s family. We, too, are sinners, but when we believe in Christ, we are forgiven and
are accepted into God’s family
The third woman mentioned is Ruth, who was a foreigner from the land of Moab. Since the
Moabites were enemies, Ruth would not have been allowed to worship near God’s presence.
But God gives her the great honour of being an ancestor of the Messiah. Ruth’s story teaches
us that through Christ, God has brought near those who were once far. In Christ, we who
were once far from God, can now enter God’s presence. Since God has accepted us, we must
learn to accept others who are different than us.
The fourth woman mentioned is Bathsheba. Bathsheba’s story is full of chaos. Her husband is
murdered; her child passes away; she is a victim of circumstances she cannot control. Her
whole situation reminds us about how chaotic and disordered life can be. Despite all this,
God grants her the great honour of being an ancestor of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace.
This teaches us that amidst the chaos of this life, God brings His order and peace by sending
His Son, the Prince of Peace.
The fifth woman mentioned is Mary, the mother of Christ. She embodies the faithful people
of God. She is perhaps the greatest example of one who held on to God’s promises for
renewal and restoration. In her famous song, she refers to God fulfilling his promises (St.
Luke 1:55). She is rewarded for her faith and faithfulness with one of the greatest honours
imaginable: to be the mother of the Christ. Mary’s story teaches us that God rewards those
who hold on to his promises in faith.
This Christmas season, let us ponder the stories of these five women who are ancestors of
Christ. Let us meditate on how their stories show God’s love for us in sending us His Son.
Rev. Dr. Zachary Kail
Pastor of the Greek Evangelical Church of Larnaca, Cyprus
When my first daughter was born, my parents were outside the hospital room eagerly awaiting her entrance into the world. As soon as she arrived, I ran out and told them that their grandchild was born. I announced this news to them first in order to honour and respect them. Had I announced it to someone else first, they might have been hurt. The announcement of a birth is important and must be done carefully. In the Christmas story, God decides to announce Christ’s birth to shepherds first. Why?
First, God announces Christ’s birth to shepherds to show what kind of king Jesus is. We first announce the birth of our children to those with whom are closest. This fact was even more true with kings in antiquity. In the ancient world, newly born kings were a threat and those with ambition for power often tried to kill them. So, royals had to be very careful when announcing the birth of a child. Often, a birth was only revealed to family and close friends until it was certain that the child was safe.
God reveals the birth of his Son first to shepherds. In doing so, he bestows upon these shepherds an honour normally reserved for family and close friends. This fact demonstrates that Jesus identifies himself most closely with these shepherds. He is not only the king, but the shepherd king. In the Old Testament, a shepherd is a frequent image for God’s care over us. A shepherd protects, feeds, disciplines, and takes care of his sheep. Jesus is the Good Shepherd; he feeds us, protects us, and lays down his life for us. Ultimately, he died to give eternal life to all who believe. We must learn to stay close to Him; otherwise, we are sheep without a shepherd.
Second, God announces Christ’s birth to shepherds first to show that his heart is with the lowly and downtrodden. In the ancient world, shepherds had the lowest possible social status. They were in some respects lower than slaves. They had no permanent home; they were from the country; they were seen as uncouth and unintelligent. But God gives to shepherds the great honour of hearing Christ’s birth first.
In announcing his Son’s birth to shepherds, God shows that a new era has begun, an era in which the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Our king identifies with a shepherd. He is not impressed with our wealth, our prestige, or our status. Rather, his concern is for how well we love one another. As a good shepherd loves, protects, and ultimately sacrifices for his flock, so also, the true followers of the Shepherd king must learn to love, protect, and make sacrifices for others. The story of Christmas teaches us that greatness is not defined by fame, wealth, or popularity but by how well we love and care for our neighbour. Let us follow the great example of our Shepherd King!
Rev. Dr. Zachary Kail
Pastor of the Greek Evangelical Church of Larnaca, Cyprus
The Covid-19 Pandemic has wreaked havoc on this world leaving chaos in its wake. The latest casualties are our normal Christmas tradition. This year, carols will not be sung on the street corners. Churches will not be filled. Normal holiday gatherings will be limited. While this scenario is unfortunate and disappointing, it can help us gain a clearer portrait of what it meant for the Son of God to enter our world.
In the eighth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, Jesus encounters a leper. This leper accosts Christ and humbly asks: “Lord if you are willing, make me clean!” Christ approaches the leper, extends his hand to touch him, and says “I am willing, be clean!” The Leper is healed and joyfully goes to the Temple to show himself before the priest to confirm his healing. What can this moving story teach us about the truth of Christmas?
The healing of the leper was not merely an act of compassion; it was a picture of how Christ, the Son of God, enters this world. Like the leper, this world is unclean – full of disease, death, and evil. The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us of this fact. As the pandemic hits closer to home, we see more and more that, like the leper in our story, this world is unclean. Into this unclean world, Christ enters. The pure enters the impure; the infinite touches the finite; the eternal God becomes flesh and dwells among us.
But Christ does not merely approach the leper, he extends his hand and touches him. Cruelly, but necessarily, human contact was prohibited for lepers. According to Old Testament Law, anyone who touched an unclean leper became himself unclean. And yet, Jesus touches the leper. Why would Christ, pure and holy, risk becoming unclean by touching a leper? He wished to show us the purpose for which he entered this world – to take upon himself the impurity, evil, and death of this world. We see this most clearly in his crucifixion. The holy Son of God is crucified as a common criminal. The sinless one dies for the sins of the world. The truth of Christmas is that God’s only begotten Son entered this world so that he could bear its burden.
The result of Christ touching the leper is that the leper is instantly healed. Christ takes upon himself the leper’s uncleanliness so that the leper becomes clean. By bearing the pain, brokenness, and evil of this world, Jesus offers us a way to be clean. To all who trust in him, Christ offers everlasting life in his presence. The eternal Son of God identified with this broken and unclean world in order to cleanse it from sin death. And, as he was resurrected from the dead, pure and full of life, so also, we too have the hope of resurrection. He died to make us clean; he lives to offer us salvation.
This strange Christmas season, let us remember the Son of God who entered this unclean world in order to cleanse its impurities. Let us, like the leper, seek salvation only from him. And, above all, let us humbly thank him for the gift of eternal life in his presence.
Rev. Dr Zachary Kail
Pastor of the Greek Evangelical Church of Larnaca
Member of the AAAF Board and Church Representative