The Christmas Story — it’s so much more than shepherds, angels, and magi. It centers around God’s promise that a Savior would deliver us from sin and death. It traces the line of a specific family — through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and on down through David and later descendants. They were all real people and you can know their names, preserved in those genealogies we so often skim or (be honest) skip.
But behind every name, there are true stories: stories of barrenness and miracle births. Stories of love and war, loyalty and betrayal, staged in the midst of throne rooms and deserts, battlefields and empires, captivities and homecomings.
Within the genealogy recorded in Matthew 1, five unlikely women are named, and their stories, woven into the Messianic line, have a lot to teach us about the scandalous grace of Christmas.
. . . behind every name, there are true stories: stories of barrenness and miracle births. Stories of love and war, loyalty and betrayal . . .
- Tamar: After being wrongly denied marriage to Judah’s youngest son, Tamar, his widowed daughter-in-law, disguised herself as a prostitute and became pregnant by Judah himself (Gen. 38). In the midst of human compromise, God’s grace gleams with the birth of Tamar and Judah’s son, Perez, through whom the line of Christ continued in spite of this dysfunctional family’s sin.
- Rahab: The theme of grace continues with God’s gift of saving faith to a gentile prostitute, named Rahab. After protecting two Israelite spies, she was spared, along with her family, in the destruction of Jericho (Josh. 2, 6, Heb. 11:31, Jam. 2:25). In time, the prostitute became a bride, and God’s grace glimmers not only through Rahab’s marriage within the Messianic line, but also in her role as the mother of a redemptive hero: Boaz (Matt. 1:5).
- Ruth: Another cultural outsider, the widowed Moabitess, Ruth, entered the family of Christ through a providential twist of tragedy and grace. After moving to Bethlehem with her embittered mother-in-law, Naomi, Ruth was given provision and protection in the field of Rahab’s godly son, Boaz, a relative of Naomi. God’s grace is displayed in the marriage of Ruth and Boaz, celebrating renewed hopes and redeemed sorrows, and it’s extended through the birth of their son, Obed, the grandfather of King David (Ruth 1-4).
. . . the prostitute became a bride . . .
- The wife of Uriah: While her husband, one of David’s “mighty men” known as “Uriah the Hittite,” was away at war, Bathsheba committed adultery with King David. After discovering her pregnancy, David attempted to mask their sin by bringing the warrior home. But, loyal to his calling, Uriah wouldn’t return to household comforts, and, in a homicidal set-up, David had him killed in battle and married Bathsheba. The sin was grave and the consequences were bitter, including the death of their first child after David was confronted and humbled before the Lord. Can God’s grace overcome so much treachery? Can it survive a fall that deep? Yes. Through this scandalously-formed marriage, God gave David and Bathsheba a second son, Solomon, and through him the line leading to Christ continued (2 Sam. 11-12, 23).
- Mary: She was a virgin who “found favor with God,” and, in the big picture, Mary, the mother of the Messiah, would be considered “[b]lessed . . . among women” by “all generations” (Luke 1:30-31, 42, 48; 2, ESV). But if you think your parents would’ve comfortably let you hang out with her in the “in-between” stages of the unfolding Christmas story, think again. Mary would’ve endured the stigma of bearing a child outside of marriage, and, in the world’s eyes, she probably wasn’t a likely choice as the mother of a King.
In many ways, these five women of the Messianic line are a “misfit” cast of characters: a woman acting in pretense, a prostitute, a cultural outsider, an adulteress, and a virgin. But God, in His scandalous grace, is in the business of using the weak, the unlikely, and the impossible. The glorious thing about each of these women’s stories is that, in every account, none of them are ever the main character. God is.
The glorious thing about each of these women’s stories is that, in every account, none of them are ever the main character. God is.
This is the scandalous grace of Christmas: that God steps into the darkness of our spiritual poverty and saves us — deceivers and prostitutes, outsiders and outcasts, adulterers and unlikely heroes — bringing us into His royal family and granting us a place in His Story, through the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Those biblical genealogies are our spiritual heritage too because, in Christ and through Christ, we, the outsiders, have been woven into His story. Christ has “toppled the walls” of sin’s dominion and set us, the enemy-captives, free. Like the names in the genealogies, we are no longer the center of our stories, because we’ve been brought in as children of God and members of His Bride. (And, like any true adoption or marriage, it is an all-or-nothing identity.)
As you reflect on the scandalous grace of Christmas, gaze at the Savior. Behold His character and actions, and, like a little child enamored with his daddy’s life and work, follow Him. Because His Story of scandalous grace is still unfolding and, with God at the center, it is — and always will be — the most breathtaking narrative.