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Matthew's Christmas Tree

Tis the Season  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  40:21
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Matthew 1:1–17 ESV
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, 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. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 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 Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
At a Christmas service you can go to a text for reflection that describes the Christmas events. You could go to a text that has shepherds, angels, wise men, and the manger. This is actually a text that is obviously not describing the events of Christmas. It is telling us what they mean. It doesn’t tell us what happened; it tells us what the events that happened mean.
This is the beginning of 1 John. John wrote the gospel of John plus these three letters. The prologue or the very first four verses of John that we just read are very like the very first few verses of the gospel of John.
Why preach on the genealogy of Jesus; especially at Christmas. First, it is the beginning of the Christmas story. If we skip the genealogy of Jesus we miss the story’s opening. Secondly Paul teaches us that all Scripture is inspired and profitable. Translation every word in the Word of God is filled with spiritual dynamite. Our text teaches us that . . .
What I’d like to show you is there are four things that this text tells us that Christmas means. It’s very easy at Christmas time not to actually think about what it means. All you have to do is sort of let the nostalgia hit. You feel warm. You have memories. You have some time off. Many, many good things happen and you just feel good at Christmas.
I’d like to help you think about what Christmas actually means. When the Bible talks about the birth of Christ, the Son of God, the Lord of heaven, coming into this world, born as a human being in the manger, what does that mean? It means four things.

In time, God broke into human history in order to give religious rejects spiritual rest.

IN TIME

1. Salvation is by grace
In the very beginning it says, “These are the generations of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham.” Right away that reminds us of something. Jesus Christ had been promised for centuries. God came to David and said, “I’m going to put one of your descendants on the throne, and he will reign forever.” He said, “Abraham, come out of your tent. Look at the stars. Can you number them? So shall your seed be, and of your seed shall all of the families of the earth be blessed.” However, it wasn’t for 2,000 more years before the angel told Mary, the Virgin, that she would give birth to Christ. This revelation causes Mary to sing. Listen to her lyrics, “He remembered his promise to our father Abraham, even as he said.”
He said, “Abraham, come out of your tent. Look at the stars. Can you number them? So shall thy seed be, and of thy seed shall all of the families of the earth be blessed.” However, it wasn’t for 2,000 more years before Mary sang her song, the Magnificat, after the angel had come to her and told her about the birth of Christ that was going to come through her. She sings a song and says, “He remembered his promise to our father Abraham, even as he said.”
Do you notice how John talks about Jesus here? In 1 of John, he’s called the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” As a matter of fact, that’s the Greek en arche en logos. “In the beginning was the Word …” Jesus is called the Word.
At least two thousand years had passed since these promises were uttered and for the last 400 years not a word from God through any prophet. For hundreds of years, the prophets had been faithfully proclaiming God is sending the Messiah. Andy yet 400 years have passed since a prophet had been heard uttering God’s promise of the Messiah. It appears that God has forgotten his promises.
Here he is called the Word of life, but look more carefully. It says this Word of life was with the Father from the beginning. In verse 2 it says, “The life appeared; we have seen and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father …” Now we’re not being told here that Jesus Christ has life or gives life (this is not just physical life; this is eternal life, salvation); it says he is it.
The first thing the genealogies teach us is that you cannot judge God by your calendars. God may appear to be very slow, but he never forgets his promises. He may seem to be forgetting his promises, but when his promises come true (and they will come true), they always burst the banks of our imagination.
Here is one of the first things we always can say makes Christianity different than other religions. In every other religion, the founder is a prophet or a sage. The founder says, “Here’s the way for you to find eternal life: do this, do this, do this, do this and you will connect to the infinite or you will become one with God or you will be saved. Do this, do this, do this, and do this. This is the way to eternal life.”
God seems to forget, but he never forgets his promises. He comes through in ways we can’t even imagine. I say that because many of us on a day like Christmas are fighting with the fact that many of God promises haven’t come true. Promises to bless us, to give us the desires of our hearts, to give us what we need.
Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” in . He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Christianity does not say Jesus is a great prophet pointing the way to God and how we can save ourselves. Jesus Christ, according to Christmas, is God come to save us, to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. To know him is eternal life. It’s not like he comes and you follow him, do the things you that should do, live a good life and then God blesses you and God saves you. No, no. He is the life.
What does this teach us? Today on Christmas Day I’m saying to you, this passage is saying to you, that the mills of God grind slowly but they grind exceedingly fine. It may seem that God has forgotten his promises, but he is in the process, even now, of bringing to fulfillment His promises. The Bible promises to those of us who believe that He is able to give us more than we dare ask or think. A lot of you are saying, “I can imagine an awful lot.”
Over the years, I’ve had people say to me something like this, “Well, I don’t know what I believe about Jesus or I don’t know if I believe the incarnation or all these things. Doctrine doesn’t matter. Doctrine and dogma don’t matter. What matters is that you live a good life. That’s what matters.”
Some of you might say, “Well, I’m a Christian and it doesn’t seem to me like God has come through for me because I have made a mess of my life. I am eating the bitter fruit of foolish mistakes and stupid moves. Maybe I’ll never have all these great things God has promised.”
I always say, “When you say, ‘Doctrine doesn’t matter. What matters is that you live a good life,’ that’s a doctrine. Do you know what the doctrine says? It says I actually am not so bad that I need a Savior. I’m actually not so messed up that I can’t pull it together and live a good enough life. When you say, ‘Doctrine doesn’t matter. What matters is that you live a good life,’ that is a doctrine and historically it is called the doctrine of salvation by your works rather than by grace.”
And this is why this genealogy is important. In verse 2 it says, “Isaac begat Jacob.” Then it says, “Jacob begat Judah.” Do you know how Jacob begat Judah? Jacob lied. He disguised himself as his brother Esau to get the birthright from his father Isaac. Because of that deception, because of that lie, Jacob fractured his family. Esau came after Jacob. Jacob had to be a fugitive. He had to run for his life. His family was broken up. He experienced terrible consequences in his life.
Yet because he had to be a fugitive, he met Rachel, the love of his life, and from that union comes the Messiah. Do you know what that means? Even though Jacob blew his life apart with his sin and suffered real consequences God did not put him on plan B. God has no plan B’s. Rachel wasn’t plan B. The Messiah is not plan B. Do you see? The first point of the genealogies is that God is working out his purposes. He will fulfill his promises.
I’ll tell you this, everybody, if you do say, “Doctrine doesn’t matter; what matters is that you live a good life, and I’m trying to live a good life” yeah, you’re trying to live a good life. It will be a life characterized by fear and insecurity because you’ll never feel like you’re being quite good enough, or it will be marked by pride and disdain for other people if you feel like you actually have been good enough. Or it will be marked by devastation and self-loathing if you feel you haven’t been good enough.
So you’re going to be insecure and anxious, or you’re going to be proud, or you’re going to be devastated, or you’re going to go through phases over and over again. If Jesus Christ didn’t actually come, if the story of Christmas is just a wonderful legend (God, gift, baby) … You see what we’re being told here is when John says, “We saw him with our eyes, we heard him with our ears, and we touched him with our hands …” Why is he being so emphatic?
For his mercies aye endure,
Bob Yarbrough, who is a New Testament scholar, a Greek scholar, scholar of ancient history, etc., says to look at these terms. He says about these verses (I’m paraphrasing), “The variety of verbs corresponds to the variety of witness attestation in ancient jurisprudence.” When John writes “… we have seen it and testify to it …,” and then he speaks of hearing, seeing, and touching, he is not making conversation, but he is virtually swearing a deposition.
Ever faithful, ever sure.
What John is trying to say is it’s not just a nice story about Jesus. It really happened. They really saw him. He really lived. He really died. He really rose from the dead. It is really God come. He’s not just a wonderful teacher; he’s God himself. If Christmas is just a nice legend, you are on your own. If Christmas is true (and John says it is absolutely true; it is eye witness account, swearing a deposition) then you can be saved by grace. You can know that just by believing in him, you’re received, you’re accepted.

GOD BROKE INTO HUMAN HISTORY

2. God broke into history
2. You can have fellowship with God
This is so foundational. This is so fundamental. Christmas teaches us that God has done something in history and this is why Matthew begins with the genealogy. In other words, Matthew does not begin the story of Jesus’ birth sith “Once upon a time” because he wants to make sure you and I know that his story is not a fable or a fairy tale; but reality. He puts Jesus in history. He says this was a historical event. Christmas is about historical not hear-say. It is not some above average bedtime story but a true story that brings into reality all the longings of our heart.
Why is he talking about the doctrine of the incarnation? “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.” That means to have fellowship with God the Father and the Son because he has fellowship with the Father and the Son. In other words, the doctrine of Christmas, the incarnation is about fellowship.
Christianity declares, “God has broken into human history as recorded through historically reliable accounts and how you respond to them will be the basis on which you rise or fall.” Christianity says, “God’s breaking into human history changes everything, and you’ll be judged on the basis of how you respond to it.”
We’re being told here it is not enough just to believe in God or even just to obey him. Christmas means God has gone to infinite lengths to come near you, to have a personal relationship with him so that you can know him personally. God is not content to simply be a concept to be believed or even something to warm your heart. He’s not even content to be a powerful force that you bow to in some way because he became human. One of the reasons is so we can have fellowship with him, intimacy.
Look at the sun. No, don’t. If you try to look at the sun to see what it looks like, you won’t be able to see it, will you? Why? At best, it will just be a blur. Its glory will be too great for your eyes. It will overwhelm you and you really won’t see it. You’ll see a blur at best. At worst, it’ll burn out your retina.
An unbeliever once wrote these words to an apologist after hearing his historical defense of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. . .
In the letter he said, “You know, it wouldn’t have been so offensive if you had just said you personally believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.” He says, “That wouldn’t be offensive, but you kept trying to say these were historical facts. You kept trying to say he was historically and literally and physically raised from the dead. You kept trying to say he really was God born in a manger.” He says, “What’s so offensive about that is if these things are historical facts, then that’s insisting we all believe them, not just you.”
“You know, it wouldn’t have been so offensive if you had just said you personally believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. “That wouldn’t be offensive, but you kept trying to say these were historical facts. You kept trying to say he was historically and literally and physically raised from the dead. You kept trying to say he really was God born in a manger. What’s so offensive about that is if these things are historical facts, then that’s insisting we all believe them, not just you.”
Therefore, if you really want to see the glory of the sun, you need a filter. You need something between you and the sun that enables you to actually see the flames bursting on the surface, the sunspots, and the eruptions. If you want to see the glory of the sun, you can’t just look at it. You need to look at it through something. You need to look at it through a filter or you really can’t see the glory of God. Oops! It’s not just the sun we’re talking about.
He’s right. If it is historical then everybody has to believe.
When we sing, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” there’s a line (I think it’s in the second verse) that goes like this,
Matthew does not start, “Once upon a time.” In fact, let me go a little further. Christmas says Jesus Christ became part of history. He happened. Do you know what that means? I continually allude to this in my preaching and so I will do it again today.
I was first exposed to this in an essay written by C.S. Lewis. In this essay Lewis describes Christmas in this manner, “Myth became fact.” Let me tell you what it means. He starts off saying, “What flows into you from the myth is not truth but reality.” Let me explain.
Veiled in flesh, the godhead see. Hail the incarnate deity.
He says when you read myths such as Beauty and the Beast or Sleeping Beauty … You know they are not factually true but they are about reality. They’re about the way things really are. They’re about reality.
He goes on to say, “Myth is the mountain whence all the different streams arise which become truths down here in the valley [of history where we live] … The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. [Reality] comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens—at a particular date, in a particular place …”
Isn’t that interesting? Charles Wesley, who wrote the hymn (very good theology) didn’t write because God is veiled in flesh, we can’t see the godhead. Veiled in flesh, the godhead hidden? No. Veiled in flesh, the godhead see. Because God has become a human being, we can see his glory in a way that otherwise would just overwhelm us literally.
Do you understand what he is saying? What is Beauty and the Beast about? No matter how ugly we’ve made ourselves, no matter how bound we are in our own sins and our own self-made prisons, there is a love that can make us our true selves again. There truly is an unwarranted and unmerited love that can cut through the ugliness. We can be transformed and free.
Remember, Moses tried to look at the glory of God and God said, “It will kill you. It’ll burn out the retina of your soul. It’ll destroy you.” Yet says, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” What does that mean?
What is Peter Pan about? We really aren’t meant to grow old. We’re not meant to decay and die. We’re not meant to be earthbound. We’re meant to fly.
When you see the story of Jesus, read the Gospels and you’re seeing God in human form; it’s like a filter. See his love. See his humility. See his brilliance. See his wisdom. See his compassion. See all the attributes of God that you know about from the Old Testament, which are kind of overwhelming, daunting, and maybe even intimidating, overwhelming, and … God says, “I can’t show you directly, but in Jesus Christ, you can come near.”
What is Sleeping Beauty about? Death isn’t really death; it’s a sleep, and there is a great Prince who can wake us from it.
Are these old myths true? Well, they’re not historically accurate. They never happened in history, but they’re about reality.
We can come near intellectually because we can understand. We can grasp him. He becomes graspable, palpable. You read about a human being, God in human form. He becomes someone we can relate to. You know that. So many people who have really never read the New Testament believe in God, but when they get to the New Testament they really believe Jesus is the Son of God.
See, these myths, even though they’re not even particularly Christian, they get at the reality.
We are bewitched under sin’s spell. There is an evil sorcerer, the Bible calls him the Devil, who has the power of death. We weren’t created to decay but to never age. We were not built to be earthbound. We were made for glory. We were made for the highest fellowship.
e were not built to be earthbound.
They start to read about him. Suddenly God becomes really human. He is human; he becomes a person. Now he’s a real person. The application, the practical point is God went to infinite lengths to get near you, to get close to you, so that you could know him personally. God went to infinite lengths. He lost his glory; he lost his life.
What is to be our reality we have turned into our myth. What our hearts want to believe but our intellect dismisses as fairy-tale. We want to believe that justice will ultimately be served but our mind’s quickly dismiss the reality of heaven and hell. More and more people believe that God does not exists. However, when they watch or read these old stories of myth something stirs deep within them. There is a sorcerer. There is an evil spell. We are supposed to fly. There is eternity. There is more than just what we taste, touch, hear, see, and smell.
Now you must be willing to go to great lengths to get close to him. It’s not enough just to believe in him. Many of you know there are things going on in your life that he’s displeased with. That’s why you’re really not that close to him. Many of you just aren’t taking the time to learn how to pray. Christmas means God wants to be near you. He wants to be close to you.
This is the Echo of Eden, it resonates deep within our soul. Matthew’s genealogy is not one more myth pointing to some awesome realities but that the reality to which all the myths pointed has come into history. Jesus Christ is the myth that became a fact.
Daniel Steele, a British Christian minister in the 18th century, wrote a letter to a friend about his prayer life. I’m paraphrasing, but he says, “Almost every week, and sometimes every day, I feel a pressure of his great love that comes down on my heart in such a measure as to make me groan under an almost unsupportable plethora of joy. At such times, he has unlocked every apartment of my being and flooded them all with the light of his presence. The inner spot has been touched and its stoniness has been melted in the presence of Jesus, the one altogether lovely.”
When Christians listen to little kids watching movies or reading books and hear them say, “I wish there was a Hercules. I wish there was a Superman. I wish I could fly. I wish there really were white knights who slew the dragon.” …and as a Christian you say, “There is,” of course they look at you crazy. In Christ, all the stories are true, and they will become literally true.
and you say, “There is,” of course they look at you crazy. In Christ, all the stories are true, and they will become literally true. When Wendy in the Steven Spielberg movie Hook looks at Robin Williams, who’s Peter Pan with amnesia and says, “Peter, the stories are true,” a Christian gets chills.
When Wendy in the Steven Spielberg movie Hook looks at Robin Williams, who’s Peter Pan with amnesia and says, “Peter, the stories are true,” a Christian gets chills.
That’s a man talking about his prayer life. Is that how you could talk about your prayer life? Probably not. You know it’s because if you want to get close to him you have to put in the time. You have to change your life. You have to put him in the center of your life. The incarnation or Christmas means that God is not content to be a concept or just someone you know afar off. He went to infinite lengths to get close to you. Now you do what it takes to get close to him. What will it take in your life? Christmas is a challenge there.
Do you know why? A Christian is Peter Pan! We know we are going to fly. We know we are never going to age. We know we’re going to run and not be weary. We know we’re going to break the bands of death. We know we’re going to live forever. We know we’re going to rule and reign with the great Prince.
These stories are true. Jesus Christ is the myth that became a fact. Christ the Savior is born is not a fable but a fact!
3. Love really matters
Anybody who says, “How offensive that you really believe these things actually happened in history. These are just wonderful stories, principles on which we can live. You look at Hercules. You look at Oedipus. You look at these wonderful stories. They teach you that love will overcome evil, and they teach you that character is more important than wealth, and so on. That’s all it teaches you.” Don’t you dare completely destroy Christianity of its heart, and don’t you dare rip the heart out of what Christmas means. Christ the Savior is born. Jesus actually happened.
The secular world says this world is all there is. You are nothing but physical matter. There is no soul; there is no spirit. It is just you, just the physical. Therefore everything about you is here only simply because of the process of natural selection.
Francis Crick, Nobel-winning scientist, some years ago wrote a book called The Astonishing Hypothesis. In it, he said something that was controversial, but from the standpoint of a secular view of things, irrefutable. He said, “ ‘You,’ your joys and sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”

to give spiritual rest

What he is saying is if you have no soul and you only have a body, then your thoughts and your feelings (love matters; people matter; human beings matter …) are actually chemical responses. They’re chemical things happening in your brain. Those chemical things make you say, “Oh, love matters.” But the fact is they’re just a chemical response.
What’s Sabbath rest? What does that mean? And where is that in here? Matthew is saying that Jesus Christ is the seventh seven. Fourteen, fourteen, and fourteen is what? Seven, seven, seven, seven, seven, seven. This is the seventh seven generation.
Why are you having those chemical responses? He says science will tell you it’s because your ancestors had those particular chemical responses in their brain which led to behavior that enabled them to survive, and all the people who didn’t have those particular chemical responses in their brain, who didn’t think those thoughts, did not survive.
Matthew telescoped these genealogies. The reason I read the Old King James where it says, “Abraham begat Isaac, Rahab begat Boaz,” is because that is a very accurate translation. In your modern translations what does it say? It says, “So-and-so was the father of,” right? That’s not true, because the Greek word that’s used over and over again, the Greek word genea from which we get our word generation, is a word that means “was the ancestor of.”
That is the reason why today everybody says, “Love matters. People matter. Human beings have dignity.” But science says they are just chemical responses in the brain. Science will tell you that human beings or individuals don’t matter. The species sort of matters, but only if the weak ones die off, and then the species survives.
Matthew telescopes it down to say Jesus Christ is the seventh seven. Fourteen, fourteen, and fourteen is what? Seven, seven, seven, seven, seven, seven. This is the seventh seven generation.
There are places in Matthew (we know this from the Old Testament, and any reader of the Old Testament would know) where he telescopes these things. He’ll say, “This guy begat this guy,” but actually this guy was the great, great, great grandfather of this guy. Matthew telescopes it down to say Jesus Christ is the seventh seven. Fourteen, fourteen, and fourteen is what? Seven, seven, seven, seven, seven, seven. This is the seventh seven generation.
You say, “Love makes a difference. Love matters. Taking care of people matters.” If there is no other thing but your body, if there is only this world, if this life is all there is, Francis Crick is right, and love is nothing but a chemical response in the brain that enables you to survive. But there is a different way of looking at it.
By the way, I know plenty of people in New York City who believe that. That’s what they say. “Everything has a scientific explanation; everything has a natural cause. Maybe there is a God, but we don’t know. We just never take that into account.” That is the secular point of view. Yet nobody lives as if love doesn’t matter. Nobody lives as if these thoughts and these feelings are really just chemical responses, though they would be on that point of view.
The number meant a whole lot. Here’s what it meant. In the Old Testament, seven was a very important word. One day in seven was the Sabbath day, and on the Sabbath day you rested from your work. Why? Because somehow that day was pointing to a Sabbath rest God promised to give us.
Christmas tells you that what your heart intuitively knows is true. Christmas can make you whole, oh New Yorker. If your brain tells you one thing and your heart tells you another thing (your brain says, “This is it,” but you’re not living that way), Christmas can make you whole. Christmas proves that love is not something that just happened inside a human brain as a chemical response. Love pre-existed the world, created the world, and is redeeming the world.
One year out of seven in the Old Testament was a Sabbath year. On the Sabbath year, the seventh year after seven years, debts were forgiven and slaves were set free. Why? It was pointing to a Sabbath rest that God spoke about. He says, “I will give you a special spiritual Sabbath rest someday, and this is a pointer to it.”
Where does it get that? Well, in the beginning of chapter 1 of 1 John, and the beginning of chapter 1 of the gospel of John and chapters 5 and 17, John gives us more about the Trinity than any other writer in the Bible. Notice what it says here is “… from the beginning …” That is saying that when the beginning of time happened, there was already the Word and the Father. The Son was with the Father. See that?
Not only that, in the Old Testament (you can read about it in ), not only was there a Sabbath day and a Sabbath year but there was a Sabbath generation. Every seven Sabbath years, which would mean the forty-ninth or the fiftieth year, was called the Jubilee year. In the Jubilee year, not only did you rest from your labor and not only were the debts forgiven and not only were the slaves freed but any capital you lost … Your family got back all of the land you may have lost over the last 50 years.
He says, “We proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father from the beginning.” In 1 of John, it says that in the beginning, the Word [Christ] already was. It says, “… and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Every other religion says, “God is a force, a unipersonal being who created.” Of course, you can’t have love until you create other persons. In other words, you have to have more than one person to have love. Other religions say, “Either God is an impersonal force or God is a unipersonal being that created and then love came in.”
This was only a way of pointing to some greater rest. Matthew is saying is that Jesus Christ is the Jubilee. He will bring you the Sabbath rest. He is the embodiment of these Old Testament rituals, practices, customs. In , we’re told there now is a rest for the people of God. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings you a deep spiritual rest.
Only Christianity says that God is a communal, glorious love in himself. There is one God. In that one God, there have always been three persons. Those three persons have been knowing and loving each other and adoring each other from all eternity, which means love was before the world, and the world came from a God who was already love. Love created the world. The world came out of love.
And the love is redeeming the world too. Love is not just a response in your brain. It was before the world; it created the world. Now it is redeeming the world. Why did God come to earth? Why did he go to all this incredible trouble to become something that could be seen, heard, tasted, and touched? I’ll tell you.
Do you know what the scientists will tell you? It’s not how long you sleep at night that makes you rested. What is it? It’s whether you have REM sleep, rapid eye movement sleep. You have to have a couple of hours of rapid eye movement sleep. Jesus gives you that deep sleep, that deep rest your soul needs. You say, “How?” Well, it can only mention it very briefly here, but look at the gospel.
The gospel says, “You’re more wicked than you ever dared believe, and you’re more loved and accepted through Jesus Christ than you ever dared hope.” That’s the gospel. You are a wicked, evil sinner. You can’t save yourself by being good. You are a condemned sinner. The second half is because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, by receiving and resting in what he has done you are completely accepted, loved, and cherished by God the Father. That’s the gospel.
When I was 11 years old, Yuri Gagarin, the first Russian cosmonaut, orbited the earth. That was 1961. You can do the math. It was one of the first things I remember reading in the paper and everybody being really excited about it. Nikita Khrushchev, the premier of Russia at the time, said something like, “In Russia, our official religion is atheism. We are officially atheists. We have even more evidence for atheism now because we sent a man into heaven and there was no God there. So we have more evidence than ever.”
Do you see how this bring rest? When you accept the fact you’re a condemned sinner, you finally get the rest from hiding. The Bible says until you are willing to admit that you’re a moral failure, that you’re not good, you’ll never earn your way into God’s heart … Until you’re willing to admit you’re a condemned sinner and you deserve to be a condemned sinner, you’re a fugitive.
C. S. Lewis was still alive at that time and he heard what Nikita Khrushchev said. He wrote a little essay called “The Seeing Eye.” He said (I’m paraphrasing), “Think about it, everybody. If there was a God, you wouldn’t relate to God the way a person who lives on the first floor relates to a person who lives on the second floor.” You see, Nikita Khrushchev was actually thinking of God as someone who lives on the second floor. We were down here on earth. We sent a man to the second floor and there was nobody home. So clearly there is nobody up there.
The Bible says until you are willing to admit that you’re a moral failure, that you’re not good, you’ll never earn your way into God’s heart … Until you’re willing to admit you’re a condemned sinner and you deserve to be a condemned sinner, you’re a fugitive. You’re Harrison Ford out there. “I’m really innocent. Everybody thinks I’m guilty, but I’m really innocent.” That makes you tired. Watch the movie. You’ll see.
Lewis says, “Well, think about it. If there was a God, you wouldn’t relate to him the way a person on the second floor relates to a person on the third floor. You would relate to him the way that Shakespeare relates to Hamlet. Shakespeare created Hamlet. The only way Hamlet can know anything about Shakespeare is if Shakespeare writes something about himself into the play.”
The Bible says that until you accept the gospel, you are a mighty tired person, always having to keep up the façade, always being bitter toward people who have shown you where you’re wrong and shown you what’s wrong with you, always running, always pursued. “Stop your hiding,” says the gospel. “Rest. You really are a sinner. Relax. You really are. It’s true.”
Hamlet is not going to find anything out about Shakespeare by going up into the rafters of the stage looking upstairs. Only if Shakespeare, or only if the creator, by revelation, reveals something to the creature … You’ll only know something about your creator if he reveals or if he writes something into the world, into the play. Then Lewis basically said, “Ah, but God did something better than just write some information in.”
Then the other side of the gospel, says, “It is not your works but God’s works through Christ. It’s not what you have done but what he has done for you. If you rest in what he has done, you rest indeed.” That’s the reason why Paul says in
Dorothy L. Sayers was a woman who lived some years ago. She was one of the first women who ever graduated from Oxford. She was a writer of mystery detective stories. Her most famous character was Lord Peter Wimsey who was an aristocrat who solved mysteries. In the middle of all these novels and short stories about Lord Peter Wimsey, who was a single man for a big period of time, suddenly a woman appears in the novels.
Romans 4:5 ESV
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
Her name is Harriet Vane. She is not very particularly good looking. She is one of the first women who ever graduated from Oxford. She’s a writer of detective fiction. Peter and she meet, solve a couple of mysteries, and then they fall in love and live happily ever after. And many people have said that Dorothy Sayers looked into the world she created, looked to the man she created, fell in love with him, and wrote herself into the story.
To him who works not. Paul is not saying, “Now you stop trying to be good.” It says, “Now you rest from thinking your goodness is what gets you right with God. Rest from hiding. You are a sinner. Rest from trying to prove yourself. Rest from trying to show the world and God that you can do it, that you’re all right.” If you rest in your own works, you’re a fugitive. If you rest in him, you rest indeed.
Paul is not saying, “Now you stop trying to be good.” It says, “Now you rest from thinking your goodness is what gets you right with God. Rest from hiding. You are a sinner. Rest from trying to prove yourself. Rest from trying to show the world and God that you can do it, that you’re all right.” If you rest in your own works, you’re a fugitive. If you rest in him, you rest indeed.
She saw he was lonely and he needed someone to save him. She wrote herself into the story and they lived happily ever after. Isn’t that sweet? Isn’t that moving? Of course, it’s moving. Yet God has actually done that. The doctrine of Christmas, the teaching of Christmas, is that the Love who created the world, who created us and who knows we’ve gone astray, we’ve gone away from him and we’re in a mess, has looked into the world that he created and looked at us, the main character in the world, the human race, and he’s loved us.
Jesus is the Jubilee. Jesus is the Sabbath rest. Jesus is the rest for the people of God. That’s the purpose of the genealogies. Are you resting? Are you relaxing? Or are you anxious? Are you guilty? Are you feeling like a failure? Then you don’t have the rest that Jesus came to bring you at Christmas.
He wrote himself into the play. He wrote himself into our lives. That’s why he was born in a manger and he came to save us: to live the life we should have lived, to die the death we should have died in our place. There was a barrier between God and us, and as everybody knows, when you wrong someone, there is a barrier in that relationship until it is dealt with. God had to deal with it, and that is how he came.
Love is not just a chemical reaction or a chemical response. We know it’s not. We talk about love and when we talk about love, we talk about forever. We say, “I’ll love you forever,” which is silly. Why don’t we just say, “I’ll love you until I die or you die”? But we don’t feel that way. We feel like our love is going to last. Why do we feel that way? Because love is not a thing originally from time and space. It has come into the world; it has come from somewhere else. Christmas proves that.

IN ORDER TO GIVE RELIGIOUS REJECTS SPIRITUAL REST

4. Joy
If you wanted to be a great official, if you wanted to be a leader, you had to have a genealogy, and your genealogy had to have good stuff in it. You had to have good people in your genealogy, because your genealogy was a way of getting credentials. It was a way of saying, “I’m somebody. You ought to look to me.” The genealogy was who you were proud of in your family.
We know that Herod the Great was very upset because a big part of his genealogy showed he was half an Edomite. That doesn’t mean much to us nowadays, but evidently being an Edomite was being from the wrong side of the tracks, I guess the wrong side of the Jordan in that case. He was half an Edomite, so he destroyed that part of his genealogy. He didn’t want anybody to see it.
Notice the last word, the last phrase. “I’m writing you all this about the incarnation. I want you to believe this to make our joy complete.” Kathy and I only have ever owned one home in our whole lives. We rent here, but we owned a home when we lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia. We lived in the Roslyn/Abington area. We lived on the side of a hill or kind of a small mountain so it was a pretty steep incline. It was a good house. We had an upstairs, downstairs, and a basement.
Your genealogy was your family, the people who bring you honor, the people who you’re proud of. Look, therefore, with amazement at who God puts into the family of Jesus Christ, into the genealogy of the King of the universe. Let me just show you three of them, and then I’ll draw the conclusions.
The one thing that really puzzled us was how wet and damp the basement always was. Whenever it rained, it would actually fill up with water; it was a real problem. Even when it was dry, in fact, even when it was a drought on and everybody was parched and it was hot and the grass had turned brown because there had been no rain, even when it was incredibly dry and hot in the weather, it was always damp down there. It was always wet, damp, and mildewy. We couldn’t figure it out.
First of all, there are women in the genealogy. Five women. There are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (even though she’s not named, it says, “She who was Uriah’s wife), and Mary. First of all, there are women in the genealogy of the King of the universe. Do you realize what a departure that was? Women were ignored in the genealogies back then. Women didn’t count. All that mattered was the father and that son. That was the thing. God brings in women as to say, “The Messiah is proud of the women in his family.” As to say, “The status of women will be forever changed by the coming of this Messiah.”
Secondly, it’s not just that he was proud of the women in his family; he’s also proud of the Gentiles in his family. You all know that the Jews, especially the Orthodox Jews of that time, wanted nothing to do with the Gentile dogs. In fact, the really Orthodox Jews were very careful not to walk places where the Gentiles had been walking, lest they touch something a Gentile had touched, making them ritually unclean and unfit for the presence of God.
Finally, one of our neighbors who had lived there all his life said, “Oh, the real estate people don’t tell you about this (no offense real estate people, but there are people like that in your field). There is a subterranean river that is underground. It runs down this side of the mountain; it goes right under the house. The water table is right underneath your basement. When there is any kind of rain, the water just rises up and comes into your building. Even when there is no rain, even when it is dry upstairs (you might say up on the earth) underneath, it’s always, always, always moist, cold and wet because there is a river down there.”
Yet here in the midst of the genealogy of the King of the Jews and the King of the universe is Rahab, who was a Canaanite (Remember? She helped the spies in Jericho), and Ruth, a Moabitess, which was on the wrong side of the Jordan. Gentiles. Why? Because Jesus is proud of the people with the wrong pedigree, people from the wrong nationality, people from the wrong race. But that’s not all. It’s not just that there are women in this genealogy and not just that there are Gentiles in this genealogy.
If you believed everything I’ve told you about Christmas, if you believed it with all your heart, if you really knew it, it would be a subterranean river of joy that was always there keeping you cool when the circumstances of your life were hot and parched. Think of it like this: Until Christmas, here was the ideal and here was the real. Here’s the ideal: heaven, bliss, happiness, eternity, immortality. Down here is the real: suffering, death, limitation, brokenness. Between the ideal and the real was this concrete slab: reality.
Thirdly, there are sinners in this genealogy. This is one of the things that really, really amazes scholars. First of all, Tamar. Do you know who Tamar is? Judah and Tamar had children, and the Messiah comes through that union. It was an incestuous relationship. Tamar was Judah’s sister. Not only is Tamar in there, but God chose to bring the Messiah through that union. He names both the husband and the wife. But that’s not all.
At Christmas, in the incarnation, God punched a hole in that concrete slab between the ideal and the real. The ideal became real! The ideal came down into our lives and into this world. It is going to change everything eventually. That can be a subterranean river of joy in your life that keeps you cool and keeps you going even when everything else is pretty bad in your life. Christmas means all these things. Christmas means so much. Think about it. Let’s pray.
Rahab wasn’t just a Canaanite but prostitute who God uses to bring the Messiah.
And then there is “She who was Uriah’s wife.” Remember that? That’s a slam at David. Matthew is slamming his great ancestor David. Because David, as you know, took this woman, Bathsheba, because he was in love with her. He took her to himself, and through her comes Solomon in the messianic line, but she was Uriah’s wife. He had Uriah killed so he could have her.
Every one of these women, according to the Old Testament, according to was ritually unclean.
Deuteronomy 23:2 ESV
“No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord.
(go take a look at ), was ritually unclean. They were unfit for the presence of God. They were unfit for worship. Jesus is proud of them. They had faith. They gave themselves, and now they’re in the genealogy of the King of the universe.
They were unfit for the presence of God. They were unfit for worship. Jesus is proud of them. They had faith and now they’re in the genealogy of the King of the universe.
What does this mean? It means that I don’t care who you are, and I don’t care what you’ve done. I don’t care if you’ve been living for the last 10 years just inside the gates of hell. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter where you are. The love and grace of God goes to everyone. Everybody needs it and everybody can receive it. Anybody, no matter what you are, no matter what you’ve done.
Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
The love and grace of God so permeate the Bible that it’s even dripping out of the genealogies. Incest, adultery, paganism, prostitution … it doesn’t matter. “Come to me,” says Jesus, “and I’ll be proud of you. I’ll be proud of you. You have an honored place in my family. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done.” “Come to me and it’s all wiped out. You have an honored place in my family. I love you,” he says. “I’m proud of you.” It says in
This is Christmas: God in the manger, God in the manure. Who cares? It’s God. Shepherds, marginal people … who cares? They’re in the presence of God. Incest, adultery, prostitution, paganism … who cares? “Come to me. It’s all wiped out. You have an honored place in my family. I love you,” he says. “I’m proud of you.” It says in
Hebrews 2:11 ESV
For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
Do you understand what this means? If you are weighed down with inferiority feelings, do you know the honor of being a Christian? Do you know that he is proud of you, that no matter who you are, if you believe in him he puts you right in his family, right in the place of honor? He sings over you. He boasts of you. Do you understand that?
Let that change the way you look at yourself, and the way we look at each other. Christmas means that status, race, pedigree, and position mean nothing in the church because we are all in Christ. When you come in here you’re a Christian first, and whatever else second. Christmas changes everything.
When you come in here you’re a Christian first, and whatever else second. Christmas changes everything. The branches of Matthew’s tree are like the manger. They don’t appear to be much to look at until it is decorated with truth. Draw it out. Christmas changes everything has it changed you.
The branches of Matthew’s tree are like the manger. They don’t appear to be much to look at until it is decorated with truth. Draw it out. Christmas changes everything has it changed you.
SPIRITUAL REST

SPIRITUAL REST

What do I mean by spiritual rest? And where is that in this text? Matthew is saying that Jesus Christ is the seventh seven. Fourteen, fourteen, and fourteen is what? Seven, seven, seven, seven, seven, seven. This is the seventh seven generation.
Numbers were key in Jewish culture to understanding. In the Old Testament, seven was a very important word. One day in seven was the Sabbath day, and on the Sabbath day you rested from your work. Why? Because somehow that day was pointing to a Sabbath rest God promised to give us.
One year out of seven in the Old Testament was a Sabbath year. On the Sabbath year, the seventh year after seven years, debts were forgiven and slaves were set free. Why? It was pointing to a Sabbath rest that God spoke about.
Not only that, in the Old Testament (you can read about it in ), not only was there a Sabbath day and a Sabbath year but there was a Sabbath generation. Every seven Sabbath years, which would mean the forty-ninth or the fiftieth year, was called the Jubilee year. In the Jubilee year, not only did you rest from your labor and not only were the debts forgiven and not only were the slaves freed but any capital you lost … Your family got back all of the land you may have lost over the last 50 years.
Leviticus 25:10 ESV
And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.
Isaiah 61:1 ESV
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
Isaiah 61:1–2 ESV
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
Luke 4:18–19 ESV
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4:10 ESV
for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’
This was only a way of pointing to some greater rest. Matthew is saying is that Jesus Christ is the Jubilee. He will bring you the Sabbath rest. He is the embodiment of these Old Testament rituals, practices, customs. In , we’re told there now is a rest for the people of God. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings you a deep spiritual rest.
This was only a way of pointing to some greater rest. Matthew is saying is that Jesus Christ is the Jubilee. He will bring you the Sabbath rest. He is the embodiment of these Old Testament rituals, practices, customs.
Luke 4:18–19 ESV
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
In , we’re told there now is a rest for the people of God. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings you a deep spiritual rest.
The gospel says, “You’re more wicked than you ever dared believe, and you’re more loved and accepted through Jesus Christ than you ever dared hope.” That’s the gospel. You are a wicked, evil sinner. You can’t save yourself by being good. You are a condemned sinner. The second half is because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, by receiving and resting in what he has done you are completely accepted, loved, and cherished by God the Father. That’s the gospel.
Do you see how this bring rest? When you accept the fact you’re a condemned sinner, you finally get the rest from hiding. The Bible says until you are willing to admit that you’re a moral failure, that you’re not good, you’ll never earn your way into God’s heart … Until you’re willing to admit you’re a condemned sinner and you deserve to be a condemned sinner, you’re a fugitive.
The Bible says that until you accept the gospel, you are a mighty tired person, always having to keep up the façade, always being bitter toward people who have shown you where you’re wrong and shown you what’s wrong with you, always running, always pursued. “Stop your hiding,” says the gospel. “Rest. You really are a sinner. Relax. You really are. It’s true.”
Then the other side of the gospel, says, “It is not your works but God’s works through Christ. It’s not what you have done but what he has done for you. If you rest in what he has done, you rest indeed.” That’s the reason why Paul says in
Romans 4:5 ESV
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
Paul is not saying, “Now you stop trying to be good.” He is saying, “Now you rest from thinking your goodness is what gets you right with God. Rest from hiding. You are a sinner. Rest from trying to prove yourself. Rest from trying to show the world and God that you can do it, that you’re all right.” If you rest in your own works, you’re a fugitive. If you rest in him, you rest indeed.
Jesus is the Jubilee. Jesus is the Sabbath rest. Jesus is the rest for the people of God. That’s the purpose of the genealogies. Are you resting? Are you relaxing? Or are you anxious? Are you guilty? Are you feeling like a failure? Then you don’t have the rest that Jesus came to bring you at Christmas.
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