Today is the sixth in a series on the 7 Last Words of Christ.
Son, behold your mother. Mother, behold your son.
Jesus made sure that those closest to him were taken care of after he died. He asked his disciple John to treat his mother Mary like his own mother. And he asked Mary to take care of his disciple John as if he were her own son. These statements remind us that we are to treat one another as if they are our own family even if they are not. We are to open our homes to each other and freely give one another food, clothing and whatever else is needed. When we treat each other like family, we pray for one another and keep them in our thoughts.
Finding out your genealogy through websites like ancestry.com and 23andme.com is all the rage these days. People have been surprised that their DNA makeup is more from one country than another. For instance, though my aunt was born a Zimmermann (a very German name), ancestry.com revealed that her heritage comes far more from Great Britain than Germany. These sites have even led to people gathering to meet far distant relatives they did not know previously to learn more about their family history.
In the Bible people were very careful to track their lineage. In fact, almost all of Matthew 1 tracks the 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus, highlighting that Jesus is connected directly to the line of King David. Luke 3:23-38 follows the ancestry of Jesus all the way back to Adam through 77 tongue-twisting names.
Why all the emphasis on the genealogy of Jesus? The genealogy from Abraham to Jesus confirms the promise that God made to Abraham, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever’” (Exodus 32:13). And the genealogy from Adam to Jesus revealed the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Savior from sin from Adam and Eve’s offspring in Genesis 3:15 when he said to the serpent; “And I will put enmitybetween you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head,and you will strike his heel.”
The good news for us as believers in Christ is that we may not be blood relatives of Jesus by birth, but we have been grafted into the family of God by the blood he shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. God’s promises of old now apply to us as well. “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,” Galatians 3:29 tells us. Each Sunday then becomes a family reunion when we join with our brothers and sisters in Christ to celebrate our place in the family of God. Enjoy being part of this holy heritage.
The word redeem had legal meaning in the Hebrew days of the Old Testament:
The term meant to buy back a person, property or right to which one had a previous claim through family relation or possession. The term is found 18 times in the Old Testament. Someone who had to sell himself into slavery because of poverty, for instance, could have his freedom bought back by someone called a redeemer, usually his next of kin.
In the Book of Ruth, we read that Boaz redeemed the widow Ruth in this manner when he bought back the land that belonged to Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, now also a widow. As the “redeemer” in this case Boaz said, “You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon.Also Ruth the Moabite, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brothers and from the gate of his native place. You are witnesses this day” (Ruth 4:9-10).
This is a beautiful foreshadowing of how Christ redeemed the Church and bought it back as his Bride. He saw us in our lost state and made sure we had a family, a home and a relationship with him.
This is why the word redeem is so powerful in Scripture. It means reconnection to the family of God that was lost because of our sin. And the payment for this redemption? The body and blood of Jesus. He gave completely of himself that he might give us an inheritance with him forevermore. What a glorious transaction!
Dr. W. Mart Thompson in his seminar “You Are a Royal Priesthood—God calls and equips Christians to serve one another,” talked about the role of vocation in our lives.
Vocation is a calling from God to serve him and others. In a Christian context there are three realms or estates of our vocation. They are: home, congregation, and society.
As part the seminar, each participant shared their vocation using these parameters. Here’s mine as an example.
A family vocation: brother, son
A congregational calling: Bible study leader
An occupational vocation: writer at Creative Communications
A community calling: member of a Tuesday night bike-riding club
It was an interesting exercise because it helped me to see where God has placed me to serve and how I might be more intentional in revealing my relationship with Christ to others and being more Christ-like in my words and deeds.
It was also interesting to listen to the vocation lists of all those in attendance and hear how God is working in so many and various ways in the lives of his people. The ways in which people volunteer and give of their time and unique skills was truly inspiring.
Consider doing this vocation exercise this week for yourself and think about how God has placed you in a certain time and place and position for a reason. Take time to ponder what those reasons are, pray about them and then act upon them as the Holy Spirit directs you.
When I was a kid, during the season of Advent we would always have a little manger scene out with the figures of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, a shepherd and three wise men. It was a child-friendly set, with almost like a Lincoln Log stable and Fisher Price style figures (I know I am dating myself with these references).
I just recently learned that this manger scene was a wedding gift for my parents, who were married 50 years ago on December 27, 1967. What a wonderful wedding gift to give: the story of the birth of Jesus in tangible form to share with future children as part of a family tradition.
My parents still have those figures and they still put them out. And I am again reminded when I see them of the marvelous story of how Christ came to earth to save us.
One of our our most pervasive rituals of thanks is gathering for a feast with family and friends.
When we were little and someone gave us something or complimented us, our parents prompted us with, “Now what do you say?” We would dutifully say thank you (perhaps rather meekly and/or begrudgingly) and run away.
As adults, we often continue to need prompting from our heavenly Father to say thank you. As the Bible says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Scripture itself is encouraging us to develop a ritual of thanks in our lives. We are called to make thanksgiving a regular part of our every activity.
Have you heard of the popular online trend of monthly box subscription services? Amanda Monroe, a director of children’s and family ministry at Grace Lutheran Church in Loves Park, IL, applied the concept to develop faith formation at home. Her online store is faithfixbox.com. Faith Fix Boxes can be purchased by families or congregations to use.
The idea is to provide devotional materials and faith-based activities for families to use and work on together to strengthen their individual commitment to Christ and build relationships of faith with one another.
In this year when we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it is good to us to remember some of the practical, everyday components of Martin Luther’s life that we can apply to our lives today.
One of those is the idea of Table Talk. Luther would regularly gather around the dinner table with friends, family and students of his for dinner and for conversation. The topics of these conversations would range from religious doctrine and history to instructions regarding government, church, and the academic university. Many who were there took notes on what Luther and others said at these Table Talks, which were eventually compiled into a book called Table Talk.
What will you say in your Christmas letter this year?
I confess that I am one of those people who loves composing and receiving Christmas letters. Maybe it is the writer in me, but there is something therapeutic to me about summing up the events of the past year in a single page and reminding me and all the friends and loved ones on my Christmas list that the Savior who was born for us in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago is still at work in our daily lives.
I love to hear the stories of how God worked in the lives of others during the past year and there is a sense in the very writing of Christmas letters that we are all in this together, that we are corresponding out of mutual love and respect and a bond with one another.
As we gather in our homes this Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the concept of “house churches,” which has had somewhat of a resurgence in our world as of late, mostly in China and in other places where Christians are being persecuted. House churches are defined groups of Christians who regularly gather for worship in private homes. The group may be part of a larger Christian body, such as a parish, but some have been independent groups that see the house church as the primary form of Christian community.
I recently talked with Jim Buckman, a missionary-at-large and a church planter in the New Jersey area, who explained that his approach to building churches was to start in the home. People feel more comfortable in their homes, they are surrounded by loved ones, and they are not caught up the structure of the organized church.