This is a side of the Christmas story that you’ve probably never heard. Professor Bakke[1], my friend and mentor, calls it The Grandmothers of Christmas. These women have a voice that reaches forward from the Old Testament and prophesies the essence of the gospel message, a voice that makes way for their grandchild, Jesus and for me. This is a story that strikes to the heart of the incarnation: God becoming like us in the form of Jesus so that we could become like God. Come with me on this  inbetween the lines story that  resides only within the genealogy of Jesus in the first chapter of Matthew.

 

Here is what it says:

 

            Tamar v. 3 Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar

 

            Rahab v. 5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab

 

            Ruth v. 5 Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth

 

            Bathsheba v. 6 David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife

 

No detail is disposable in the great stories of the Bible. So why are these women mentioned? And what can we learn from them?

 

 

Tamar: Genesis 38 The predicament: Widowed with no children

 

            Tamar’s husband died and, according to the law, she became his brother’s wife. The brother refused to muddy the inheritance of his children by impregnating. So he spilled his seed on the ground, the Bible says. The brother soon died and Tamar became a widow once again. There was another brother, however, who was too young to marry. Judah, Tamar’s father-in-law, urged her to wait until he was grown and then she could conceive by him. As Tamar waited it became obvious that Judah was not going to keep his promise. So she dressed herself as a temple prostitute and seduced Judah and she became pregnant. Manipulative? Hmmm… but  in their culture less criminal than Judah.  When confronted with the his behavior Judah said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son.”

 

            Tamar resorted to desperate means to bear a child and thus she found her way into the Messianic line. Tamar was not vindictive. She was just determined, driven to bear a child and find to herself in history. Did she know that she would be a great grandmother to the Messiah? Probably not.  As powerless as women were in that day she knew she had a modicum of power and she was clever enough to use it which placed her in the messianic line.

 

 

Rahab: Joshua 2-6 The predicament: The prostitute that wanted more

 

            Rahab was not a Hebrew. She was probably a career prostitute.[2] Joshua sent men to Jericho to check out the city’s fortresses. When the king’s men came searching for the spies she hid them on her roof. “Our lives for yours!” was the deal they struck. Rahab protected the spies and in return they would bring her to safety when Israel invaded the city. Rahab helped the spies escape through the window. A red cord hanging from that same window alerted the Hebrew army to save Rahab and her household. When the walls of Jericho fell, Rahab’s family was indeed saved. This changed her life was forever.  Rahab married Salmon, a Jew, and eventually became the mother of Boaz the husband of our next Grandmother of Christmas.

 

            Rahab knew one thing for sure: Salvation lay with God’s people. And she wanted to be one of them. She was not afraid to go against her culture, leave her home and start her life over in a new land. Hers is a story of redemption, God’s mercy, forgiveness and new beginnings.

 

 

Ruth: Book of Ruth The predicament: Widowed with no prospects in a time of famine

 

            Ruth was a Moabitess, who married into a Hebrew family. When Ruth’s husband died she refused to return to her own family. She journeyed to Bethlehem with Naomi her mother-in-law, whom she loved. At the urging of Naomi she pursued a marriage to Boaz, a close relative of her deceased husband. She accepted the culture of the Hebrews and the God of the Hebrews as her own. Ruth pledged to her mother in law, “Where you go I will go. Your people shall be my people and your God shall be my God.”  So she married Boaz, and gave birth to Obed who was the father of Jesse who was the father of King David.  Ruth saw something in her mother in law that she could not walk away from. She had an eye for spiritual depth. She became hopelessly entangled with God’s people and thus found her way into the messianic line.

 

 Bathsheba: II Samuel 11 The predicament: Married to one guy, pregnant with another guys baby

 

            She was Uriah’s wife. Uriah was soldier in David’s army. David saw her bathing on her rooftop (that’s what they did in those days) and wanted her because she was beautiful. David had her and she became pregnant. He panicked. To cover up his misdeeds he sent Uriah to the front lines of the battle where he was killed. David married Bathsheba. Although their first child died, Bathsheba eventually bore Solomon who followed David in the Messianic line. Was Bathsheba supposed to marry David? Probably. The messianic line did come through her womb. Did they jump the gun? Most definitely.

 

 

Conclusions:

 

            So what can we say about Tamar the survivor, Rahab the prostitute, Ruth the gentile, and Bathsheba the adulteress, these Grandmothers of Christmas?? We can say that Jesus came from a speckled heritage, certainly not pure or highbrow. The rules stated that priests/holy men had to be of pure blood. Wouldn’t one assume that this would be true of the Messiah? But God purposely sent the Messiah through foggy bloodlines. Why? Possibly because God wants me to know that no matter where I find myself my past will never determine my future unless I allow it to. God never holds it against me. Everyone is clean and acceptable, welcome in God’s eyes. From this day forward there is no shame.

 

            Matthew wanted his readers to understand that all can becomechosen. I can become chosen! The membership in God’s family is open … nothing can disqualify me, not bloodlines, not profession, not misdeeds, nor the will of another person. Just like my own Grandmother[3] these women claimed their voices.  The Grandmothers of Christmas prove to me that nothing can take me out of the hand of God if I will myself to be there.

 

 

Merry Christmas!

 

 


[1] He was my prof in my doctorate studies at Bakke Graduate University. I want to be just like him when I grow up. This is his story. I am merely repeating it.

[2] Some say she was an innkeeper but I think they like to believe that because they cannot bear the thought of a hooker being in the genealogy of Jesus. Others believe that the Rahab of Matthew 1 is not Rahab the harlot. Why? I do not know. Biblical interpretation principles dictate that the easiest interpretation is probably the accurate one. Again I suspect that it is unthinkable for some for a harlot to be found in the messianic line.

[3] Read Putt Putt You’re Dead  for her story.