Christmas means that no matter who you come from or what you’ve done, God can still use you.

About this time every year, your mailbox starts to fill with card and letters from people who you rarely talk to, but that is because we all want to feel connected in some way to our extended family.

Most of us keep a relatively small family group.  We have our parents, grandparents, and cousins, but that is about it.  We don’t know a ton about our families’ history.  I want to take a little survey, so everyone stand up.  Now stay standing if you know one of your great grandfather’s names, not PopPop, Pappa, or GrampGramp, their actual full name.  Now stay standing if you know what your great grandfather did for a living.  (Robert made it the farthest with a deep knowledge of his family history from researching his family history)

The fact that we don’t really know all of our families’ history is both a blessing and a curse.  It’s sad because we know so little of our family history and heritage, but we also do not let someone else’s mistakes or triumphs define who we are.  That wasn’t the way that it used to be.  Your family defined who you were. People took great pride, and great shame, in who their ancestors were and what they did.  If you did something great, your whole family, for generations, got to celebrate it.  But if you did something wrong, your entire family had to deal with the embarrassment.  People would either accept others, or write them off completely, based on the family that they came from.

In Jesus culture, knowing your ancestors was a BIG deal.  Matthew 1 Goes back 42 generations from Jesus to tell where he came from.  At Christmas, the one time of year when we might actually take time to read the Christmas story, we usually skip straight to verse 18 of chapter One. We don’t want to bore ourselves with a list of names. Where’s the action? Where’s the mystery? Where’s the tension and the dramatic chase? When can we get on to Herod’s jealousy and violence?

Genealogy of Jesus Matthew 1:1-18 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Genealogy of Jesus Christ
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:

2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king.

David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife[a] of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa.[b] 8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon,[c] and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.

12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.

Christ Born of Mary
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.

We have a list of 42 generations, and out of all the names only five women are mentioned.  The women in Jesus’ family weren’t any different; all five of them either did terrible things, or came from terrible situations, but God used them all to eventually bring Jesus into the world.  Let’s take a quick look at the stories of these women.

Verse 3 mentions a woman named Tamar.  I won’t tell you all of Tamar’s story, I might get fired; it is very R rated.  Genesis 38 tells her story though. You can read through it on your own. She married one of Judah’s sons, but he died before they had any children, and in that day it was the responsibility of the husband’s family to provide a new husband for a wife who’s husband had died, if they didn’t have kids.  Kind of weird right? “Sorry your husband died, but guess what? You get to be married to his little brother now!” Tamar married her brother in law, but he died too.  When she went to her father in law, Judah, looking for a third husband, he told her to go away for a few years until the baby of the family was old enough to get married.  Again, this is super weird.  A few years went by, she was still waiting for a husband, she was still waiting to have a baby, and her father in law was ignoring her requests.  So she decided to dress up like a prostitute, seduce her father in law, and finally have a baby.  That baby turned out to be Jesus’ great great great great (like 30 times) grandfather.

Verse 5 mentions a woman named Rahab.  Joshua 2 tells her story.  Rahab didn’t just dress up like a prostitute, she was a prostitute.  When she realized that God’s people were going to destroy her city, it was a very wicked city, she decided to leave her former life, and follow them and the God they served.  When Rahab put her faith in God, her entire life changed.  Despite her past, God used her greatly, and she became Jesus’ great great great great grandmother.

Verse 5 also talks about Ruth.  If you know Ruth’s story from Children’s Church with me, you might be thinking “hey, what’s wrong with Ruth?” Ruth was a Moabite.  God’s people hated the Moabites.  In fact Deuteronomy 23:3 says that if anyone had a child with a Moabite, they would not be allowed to worship with the rest of God’s people for ten generations! Think about that, these people were so bad, that if your great great great great great great great great great grandfather was one of them, you weren’t allowed to even go to church with your neighbors.  The Moabites were infamous for incest and human sacrifice.  That is the family that Ruth came from, but she turned from that life.  She trusted in the one true God, and eventually became King David’s grandmother, and Jesus’ great great great great grandmother.

Bathsheba’s story(verse 6) is probably the best know of the women in Jesus’ family history.  She cheated on her husband Urriah, with King David.  Their affair ultimately caused the death of 4 of David’s sons, and one of the worst civil wars in the history of the world.  Bathsheba’s story starts off pretty rough, but ends with her being the mother of King Solomon and Jesus’ great great great great great great great grandmother.

Then there is Mary. Now, it is pretty much impossible to say anything bad about Mary, but when Jesus was born, everyone was talking about her.  The scandal of an unwed teenage mother is juicy gossip now, but 2000 in years ago, in Palestine, it was a criminal offense.  Mary’s situation might have been the toughest of any of the women in Jesus’ history.  She was in that situation, not because of something she had done wrong, or because of the awful family she was in; Mary was in her difficult situation because of how righteous she was.

Matthew chapter 1 is Jesus’ introduction to the world, and it is kind of a strange introduction.  “Hi my name is Jesus, I come from a messed up family full of messed up people who did messed up things.  My great great great great great grandmother pretended she was a prostitute to seduce her own father in law.  My great great great great grandmother actually was a prostitute. My great great great grandmother came from a long line of incest and idol worshipers. My great great great great grandparents had an affair, and tried to cover it up.  It cost thousands of lives, and my great great great great grandfather murdered one of his closest friends over it.  My own mother was accused of awful things, and called every name in the book.  Guess what, God, my father still used each and everyone of them, and he still can use you too.”

The story of Christmas is the greatest story ever told.  Its the story of God coming to earth, to make it possible for us to have a relationship with him! But it is also the story of God telling you and me that no matter who you come from or what you’ve done, God can use you.

Let’s take a look at the story of Annie Lobert.  Annie’s an example of God using a woman many would have written off as too far gone…

“Little girl lost, thought no one loved her, thought no one wanted her, ran away from her castle. But God met her on that dark road, he said, ‘You can come home now. I’m right here. And I never left you.’ Redemption. Redeemed. Set free. That’s my life. His love.”