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Heli Who

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". . . He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli," (Luke 3:23, NIV) [1]

Things rarely work out as we anticipate, . . . or so it seems . . .  at least to me.  In the back of my mind I have always had a picture of the future as I hoped that it would materialize.  There have been times when the reality has been better than my imagination and other times when at first reflection, it would have seemed to be a disappointment.

Heli . . . strange name isn’t it . . . an abnormal name for a normal father, most likely.  Like any normal father, he had hopes and dreams for his kids. 

In all likelihood, Heli prayed that his kids would be spared some of his own mistakes and that life would look better for them than it had for him.  Not that things had been particularly disastrous, just that things could have been better, . . . they can always be better.  And at some point for most parents, the future of their children becomes more important than their own.  The kids become the VIP’s.

Heli would imagined the kind of man to take his daughter from their home.  And this man was adequate, a good man, an entrepreneur of sorts.  Just starting out as well.  Looking for the chance to build his business on the back of his reputation in a relatively conservative even a “redneck” community.  Reputation is always important for a young, up and coming tradesman.  Not simply his skills, . . . perhaps even more so, . . . his character.

So the engagement, which came all too quickly, was a good thing.  The betrothal period would be the normal year.  It was binding.  The wedding would happen.

That’s when things turned upside down.  She was pregnant, the math was all wrong.  She had a story . . . there’s always a story.  This one was . . . well . . . unique to say the least.  And if the “son-in-law to be”, believed it then he was blindly in love with her or a bit “touched” himself.

When your daughter tells you that she’s pregnant, the dreams change somehow.  It’s just not the way that you imagined it would happen.  The disappointment is more for her than for yourself . . . it’s just a hard way to start out.

Try as hard as you might you just can’t celebrate as you might have.  And in a small town, everybody whispers when you come around.

The truth is that Heli was more grateful than he was disappointed.  The “son-in-law” could have made a spectacle of his daughter and walked away from that binding engagement.  When you marry a girl who carries someone else’s child then it has its’ impact on every level of your life, especially for a young man trying to build a business in a small conservative town.

He shuddered to think of what might have been if this man was not a very good man.  People around this town had done frightful things to others in similar circumstances.  There were times when Heli himself was judgmental of others.  That would never happen again – this was way too close to home.

He wasn’t there the night his grandson was born.  The child came suddenly after a long trip to Bethlehem.  Others saw his grandson before he did . . . Heli had no idea and that was most likely a good thing. 

To think that she delivered in such a place gave new meaning to the idea of being born in a barn.  Cradled in a watering trough . . . it just wasn’t the way that he saw it happening.  And there was no one to celebrate . . .  or so he thought.

Today we’d have a shower for the expectant mother and the father would pass out chewing gum cigars or something significant.

Although grandpa Heli didn’t celebrate with his daughter, at the birth of his grandson, Jesus, and so far as we know, Joseph, the good man that he was, attended faithfully to Mary, there was a celebration that night that far outweighed anything that anyone might ever have pre-planned.

No one could have imagined such an event – no man that is.  Because while Jesus was truly Heli’s grandson, he was not actually the son of Joseph, the young carpenter from Nazareth. 

And that cold Judean night his real father staged a celebration that keeps on celebrating.  The stars danced, a new star shone. 

The simple shepherds heard the voice of an angel and found their Lamb; the wise men saw the light of a star and found their Wisdom.


 Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979)

It was such a performance that wise men from the far east journeyed for two years to worship the object of celestial adoration.  And God, the Father looked for anyone that he could find to share the “good news of great joy which was for all people.”

The Psalmist wrote:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun," (Psalm 19:1-4, NIV) [2]

God the Father had from the beginning, painted on the tapestry of the heavens.  From Creation’s morn to the rainbow’s promise, the pillars of fire and smoke, Sinai’s thunderous rumblings.  The Father knows how to celebrate and the shepherds, well, they were the first in line for the proud father of the universe.  He sent the angel first just so he wouldn’t frighten them to death and then threw in the  heavenly host to shout “Amen” to the heavenly birth announcement.  They were fairly well convinced that something significant happened in the crowded town.  So they went there, covered in sheep manure where their smell was normal and they saw the joy of the heavens – no way that they understood what they were seeing – they couldn’t have.  But I am sure that they worshipped.  You don’t have to understand to worship such a creation, the God of the Universe clothed in skin, the embodiment of love and grace. 

This is the beauty of Christmas, the gift of Christmas – nothing else comes close.

The shepherds didn't ask God if he was sure he knew what he was doing. Had the angel gone to the theologians, they would have first consulted their commentaries. Had he gone to the elite, they would have looked around to see if anyone was watching. Had he gone to the successful, they would have first looked at their calendars.

So he went to the shepherds. Men who didn't have a reputation to protect or an ax to grind or a ladder to climb. Men who didn't know enough to tell God that angels don't sing to sheep and that messiahs aren't found wrapped in rags and sleeping in a feed trough.

   Max L. Lucado (1955- )


[1]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[2]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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