Jack Graham - The First Christmas Tree
It's almost Christmas and for many of you that means trouble because Christmas time means family time. It involves family. And when someone sings "I'll Be Home for Christmas" you're already getting this huge knot in pit of your stomach and popping Pepto for the acid reflux. Because you know that the family's going to get together and when the family gets together, anything can happen. There's that obnoxious uncle, that crazy sister-in-law, that doofus brother-in-law of yours. You know, everybody's got crazy family members, and if you don't have any, be careful, you're probably it! Okay? No wonder Christmas can be not the most the wonderful time of the year, but for some the most stressful time of the year.
And you know, I'm making light, of course, of the whole situation and... and that's fun, but the fact is it's not always fun for people at Christmas and there's some serious issues that people deal with at the Christmas season regarding their family. Many homes and families experience brokenness and fracturing and divorce and, you know, filled with a lot of pain. Dad's got a new wife and the kids are living at different parents. there are many tears that fall during the Christmas season because a loved one is no longer there. So, yes, Christmas is for family but family can cause some problems. And maybe your family is messed up. Maybe there are problems in your family. Well, welcome to the world... because we all have fractured families.
Now usually when we read the Christmas story, we cut right to the chase. We go right to the account of the birth of Christ, the angel's singing, the shepherds worshiping, but today I'm going to take a different approach. I doubt you'll be reading the passage that I have before you around the Christmas tree, and I hope you always take time at your dinner table or your Christmas tree to read the Christmas story to your familym to your children, but there are some very important words and people that show up before Christmas and they're mentioned in Matthew chapter 1. This, of course, is the genealogy of the Lord Jesus Christ, the family history of Jesus. Forty-seven names in all, both men and women, greats and near greats and wannabe greats and not so greats, and not so, very much not so greats.
People of all kinds, of all classes, paupers and peasants and princes and kings; sinners and saints all. But their names are forever recorded in God's Book, and they're there for a purpose. Verse one: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, 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 Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab", (or Abba daba doo, whichever you prefer), "and Amminadab 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 David the king".
Now skip down to verses 15 and 16:, "and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Christ". In the day of Jesus it was especially important that a Jewish family know their history, know their legacy. It was a part of their identity, their community, their clan. It was a kind of religious and spiritual pedigree. And so it is very important for Matthew, the writer of this good news of Jesus Christ to include the family lineage and legacy of Jesus. He was proving that Jesus is the Messiah, in that He is a son of Abraham, born of the Jewish race, and that He is the son of David of whom it is said there will be one greater than David.
The Son of David. Genealogies... now people still are interested in genealogies today, and many really go after their family history. But what if you, in studying your family... in tracing your family history, found relatives who were notorious... infamous for their sin? For their failure? For their brokenness? Does anybody here have a perfect family? Let me see your hands. Now I know some of us have perfect grandchildren. But anybody here have perfect family? 'Course not! When you say human family, you're saying failure. But Does it surprise you that Jesus Himself did not have a perfect family? As a matter of fact, when you read the family history of Jesus, it is filled with people who had sinned greatly, both men and women. You see real people.
I think sometimes when we read Bible names and stories of Bible characters, we have them in a stain glass somewhere, but in fact these are real people, living real lives. They loved, they laughed, they wept, they worried, there were tears, there were fears. Hopes and fears of all the years were wrapped up in the lives and the stories of each one of the personalities that are here. But a common thread is that all were sinful and all were broken and yet they're in the family tree of Jesus. Yes, the Messianic line of Jesus the Messiah is messed up! There are knots on His family tree... and a few knot heads. There are names of people here that you would leave out if you were writing the story. A dysfunctional family! It's a veritable hall of shame! Prostitutes and pagans and adulterers and adulteresses and outcasts and liars and sinners! All definitely on the naughty list.
So why would men and women like these show up in the beautiful story of Jesus? Stories that I dare say you wouldn't be reading around the Christmas tree this year. I'll tell you why these men and women are here. Because the story of Jesus is not about God helping good people get better, or religious people be more religious; not that God came to earth so that He could help perfect people become more perfect. But because God came to earth to save us from our sins, to deliver us from evil and the brokenness and the pain of life, and the consequences of decisions that we make. Let me give you another way to spell Christmas: G-R-A-C-E... this is the very heart of Christmas! Grace! Grace that is greater than all our sin! Of which the Apostle Paul said in Romans chapter 8 "Where sin abounds grace much more abounds". The angel said Matthew 1:21, "You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sin".
John, the disciple, in writing of the incarnation of Christ in John chapter 1... the Word becoming flesh... went on to say in the sixteenth verse of that first chapter of John, that: "of His fullness we have all received grace after grace"! Grace and more grace! This is the story of Christmas! Because we are all a part of a fallen, broken, fractured family of a human race. The Bible tells us that we are all a part of Adam's race, the original man. And in 1 Corinthians 15:22 that "in Adam all die". The seeds of death... As a result of sin the seeds of death destroy everything that it touches. In Adam all die, not only physically but spiritually, cut off from God. We all have our own secret, our own story, our own shameful acts in Adam, in our old broken humanity. But the Scripture goes on to say "in Christ all are made alive".
Jesus was born and became a man so that we, the sons of men and the daughters of men can become the children of God; so that we can be reborn. Jesus was born so that we may be born again! And you will never know the meaning of Christmas and the depth of the need of Christ as Christmas until you realize the depth and the depravity of your own sin. And this is why He came! Not just to modify our behavior, not just to make good people better people. Or not... not just to adjust our attitudes. Or He didn't come just so that we could be happy, happy, happy! He came to save us from our sin! To deliver us! From judgment and wrath because we all needed it. No wonder Jesus said John 3:7, "You must be born again".
I'm not a Christian because I was born into a good family, or because I was born into a Christian family. I'm so thankful for the heritage of faith in my family... certainly my immediate family. But that's not why I'm a Christian. I am a Christian because I have been born again into the family of God. Not a Christian because I am a child of my parents, but because I am a child of God by faith in Christ! And this is grace that my sins, your sins can be forgiven; that His life will live in us, that His love will fill us, that we will live with the security and the confidence of a hope and a future with Him. Here's why Tamar and Rahab and Bathsheba and Ruth, all outsiders and outcasts... downtrodden and broken, are in the family tree of Jesus: to tell each and every one of us no matter your background, no matter your religion or lack of religion, no matter your family pedigree, no matter how sinful or broken your life, Jesus will welcome you into His family if you will turn from your sin (that's repentance) and trust in Him.
Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord". The only way you get in to the family of God is through the door of grace, which is the unmerited, unmitigated love and favor of God! Certainly we see God's grace in the coming of Christ at His cradle. We see grace there; that He left heaven and came to earth; that he who was rich became poor so that we who have nothing might have everything! But if you want to see the fullness of His grace, His grace more and more, then leave the cradle and go to the cross where He died for our sins. All of our sins, and any of our sins! All of our sins! And any of our sins! That's grace. And these women, along with the others in the family line of Jesus are here to tell you that just because you have a past... we all have a past... That just because you have a past doesn't mean you don't have a future with God.
Now before we wrap a bow around this message and send everyone home thinking about the grace of God, I need to show you one other thing in this passage, because not only do we see God's grace in the genealogy of Jesus but we see God Himself. Look at verse 16 very carefully. Ask God to open your eyes and show you what I am about to point out, "And Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ". Now you need to notice what this passage says and what this passage does not say. What this verse does not say is that Joseph is the father of Jesus. What it does say is that Mary gave birth to Jesus... the mother of Jesus.
Now that is essential and here's why... And Mary, of course, is another woman... a godly woman who shows up in the genealogy of our Lord because she is the mother of our Savior: the heavenly Child of a earthly mother and the earthly Child of a heavenly Father. Not begotten of Joseph but born of Mary. Galatians 4:4. Note that in your Bibles. Galatians 4:4: "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman". The most ancient of all the Bible prophecies concerning the Messiah is found in Genesis 3:15 when it says that "the seed of the woman would crush the head of Satan"!
Every seventh grade, eighth grade biology students knows that the seed belongs to the man, not the woman. But in this case the One who would come to deliver us from our sin and to defeat the powers of Satan would be born of a woman! This is a straight up testimony to the virgin birth of Christ. Now the purpose of this message is not to discuss... debate the virgin birth of Christ; that's for another time, but let me say that if you believe the Bible, you believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. And here's why it's necessary.
You say, "Is it really all that important? Is it really all that essential that Jesus be born of a virgin"? Let me tell you how essential it is: If Jesus was born in a normal natural way, rather than the supernatural virgin birth of Christ... if He was born as any other person was born on earth, born of man, then human... human blood would be coursing through His veins! Man's blood! "In Adam all die". He Himself would have been a sinful man! And incapable of living a sinless life and, therefore, being our Savior and our God.
So the difference the virgin birth makes is the difference between heaven and hell; salvation or no salvation in Christ. Not the son of Joseph, but the Son of God! You need look no farther than the... the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16 to know who the Father of Jesus really is. "For God so loved the world that He (God) gave His only begotten Son"... One of a kind... monogenes... one of a kind, only Son, His unique Son of God! God Himself is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore we worship Him as our Savior and our Lord. His name is here because His name, the name that is above every name, the name of Jesus.
So the question then, and I want to close with you today, is simply this: Is your name in the book? In the record of the family of God? I'm not talking about this Book, the Bible; not the ancestral line of Jesus, but the Bible tells us there's another book, the Lamb's Book of Life. And if your name is in that book that means that you're saved, that you're going to heaven. Some people try to get on certain lists around Christmas... social lists, party lists. But you better make sure you're on this list, the Lamb's Book of Life; that you are a member of the family of God! Is your name among the children of God because you have been born again, having trusted in Christ?
And then your family... Looking backward... looking backward I dare say most of us in this room could not name our great, great grandparents unless you really study that sort of thing, so that would be very few of us. And if you could name them, you probably don't know that much about them... who they were, what they were like, what they did. What about their faith? What about their sorrows and their tears? What did they go through in life? You probably know nothing about your ancestors just a few generations ago.
But think about this: Your great, great grandchildren will probably know nothing about you! Merry Christmas! But it's not all that important that our great grandchildren... our great, great grandchildren and so on, know our names. But what is so important is that they know the name of Jesus! That we are doing everything that we can in God's power and grace to advance this good news from generation to generation. Can you say to your family, "Follow me as I follow Christ"!? Are you bringing up your family in the nurture and in the admonition, the teaching and the training of the Lord? The greatest gift that you can give to your children, moms and dads, is that you love one another as you love God! Now, again, I know that we live amongst broken families and broken homes. And some times you... well none of the time really can you go back and unscramble eggs! But you can, beginning today. Never too late for a new beginning.