The dysfunctional family of Jesus

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“Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18)

December 17th, 2022

Finally, the story of Jesus begins! Well … not exactly.

You may have noticed that this reference to the imminent birth of Jesus is given in the eighteenth verse of the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. That means the story started seventeen verses earlier, but you probably won’t hear those verses read out in any church this Sunday. There’s a good reason for that. They are some of the most boring verses in the Bible. Here’s a snippet:

“And Judah begat Phares and Zara of Tamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; and Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon; and Salmon begat Boaz of Rahab; and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; and Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Uria” (Matthew 1:3-6)

Yes, it’s a genealogy, and those are just four of its seventeen (very similar) verses! It’s the genealogy of Joseph (Jesus’ adoptive father). We prefer to start our Christmas narrative with Mary and her unexpected pregnancy, but from the Gospel-writer’s point of view, that’s not the whole story. Mary’s story had a history, and it was a history that predated Mary.

I appreciate that for most of us, this genealogy is just a bunch of difficult-to-pronounce names. Even so, each of those names was a person with their own story, and some of those stories were quite dark.

We’re told, for instance, that “Judah begat Phares and Zara of Tamar”. What we’re not told there is that Judah was Tamar’s father-in-law, and that she had been married to two of Judah’s sons, both of whom had died prematurely before any children had been born. Under Israelite law, Judah was therefore required to marry his third son to Tamar so that she wouldn’t remain childless, but Judah had decided that Tamar was jinxed so he kept his third son well away from her. Tamar responded by disguising herself as a sex-worker and enticing Judah to provide her with a child (so to speak). When Judah found out she was pregnant, he ordered that she be burned alive, but changed his mind when he realised that he was the father.

You can read the entire sordid tale in Genesis 38. It doesn’t make for happy Christmas reading, and neither do the stories of some of the other characters who appear in this genealogy:

  • “Salmon begat Boaz of Rahab”, who was a genuine sex-worker.
  • “Boaz begat Obed of Ruth”. Read the book of Ruth to see how Boaz woke up one night to find Ruth (who he’d only ever seen at a distance, working in his fields) in bed with him!
  • “David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Uria.” Yes, that’s a reference to Bathsheba, whom David raped before murdering her husband. Need I say more?This is the family of Jesus. It’s a dysfunctional family!

I struggle with Christmas. I know many of us do. While everyone is getting together to celebrate the joy of family, there is much that is broken in my family. I have a daughter who will not speak to me and children who will not speak to each other. This grieves me enormously, yet I find it strangely comforting when I think of my family alongside Jesus’ family. Perhaps we aren’t doing too bad?

Jesus was born into chaos – that’s Matthew’s point – and things went from bad to worse. Jesus’ mother went into labour while they were away from home, and no hospitality was shown to her. It’s a consistently distressing story and yet, in the midst of all that chaos, something beautiful happened, and long-awaited hopes were fulfilled: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

Christmas is hard work. It’s a time of joy and despair, peace and chaos. At the heart of it all though is this story of hope that rises out of the middle of the maelstrom. Our families and our world are far from perfect. That’s how Christmas has always been. Even so, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out” (John 1:5)

Christmas Giving

I’m going to make one more appeal this week for a Christmas gift to Fighting Fathers Ministries. I deeply appreciate all those who have stepped up over the last couple of weeks to help us cover our monthly costs but we still need at least half a dozen more Patreon.com subscribers in either the Heavyweight ($100/month) or Superheavyweight ($200/month) divisions to stay afloat.

As my Christmas gift, I’ll send you a copy of each of my books if you sign up. Just let me know your address and I’ll mail you a personalised copy of each book, or I can send them to friends as a Christmas gift if you prefer.

My books:

You can read more about my first book via the Amazon link above. You’ll get more insight into my second book from the website, ChristiansandMuslims.com, which includes reviews and lots of excerpts.

Please sign up via Patreon.com if you can:

  1. Middleweight (community mentoring)
    Access to our member site
    Weekly email newsletters
    Weekly worship services
    Access to the Fighting Fit training videos
    Access to the Fighting Fathers’ physical and spiritual fitness program
  2. Heavyweight (remote mentoring)
    All of the above +
    Development and monitoring of personalised training plan
    Weekly mentoring via email, phone or Skyp
  3. Superheavyweight (in-person mentoring)All of the above +
    Unlimited access to Father Dave’s Fight Club training sessions
    Mentoring via email, phone, Skype or in person.
    Discounted training weekends at Binacrombi Bush Camp

Sunday Eucharist

Last Sunday’s Eucharist was a very special event. It began with Kamini sharing some verses of “God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen” with us and continued on a high note from there. Thank you, Doug and Dave and Kamini.😊

This week I’m back at Binacrombi and expect to have at least three good men with me there. We’ll also have Robert (whose graduation pic is featured below), and if anyone else wants to take the vacant spots on the panel, please let me know ASAP. Likewise, if you’d like to share a Christmas carol with us (or a poem or anything else that is appropriate and seasonal) let me know.😊

Join us at www.thesundayeucharist.com from around 11.45 am, or access us via your favourite social media site (Facebook , YouTube, Twitter or LinkedIn).

What’s on this week?

Sunday, December 18 – The Sunday Eucharist at midday
Tuesday, December 20 – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab
Thursday, December 22 – Boxing from 6.30 pm @The Fight Lab

Sharing my story

In closing today, I have something I really want to share with my friends.

For some months now I’ve been working on a media history of my adventures over the last thirty years. Perhaps it’s my way of coming to terms with what’s happened to me over the last couple of years. I’ve tried to look at the bigger picture of what we’ve achieved together since I started the work in Dulwich Hill, the boxing club, the peace work, the interfaith work, etc.

I decided that that best way to chronicle our work was to look at what other people have said about us in the media, so I’ve been sorting through all the news stories and documentaries and short films that we’ve been featured in since the early 90’s. There are more than a hundred such video clips, some lasting for only a couple of minutes and some the length of short movies. I’ve chosen my favourite twenty clips and I’ve packaged them in a series of emails, sent out automatically at a rate of one every three days over a two-month period.

I would love to share this story with you. You’ll forgive me if it seems a little self-focused but it’s not just about me. It’s about what we’ve achieved together, and it’s about the wisdom we’ve gained along the way. Some of these clips probe male-identity issues. Some deal with politics. Some are just funny. Along with each clip I’ve chosen, I’ve added links to other similar clips that are on the same theme and explore the issues further. You can get lost in exploring the issues or you can unsubscribe with one click if you get bored. Either way, I’d love it if you’d give it a try.

Go to www.fighting-fathers.com and enter your email address. That should kick-start the series. You’ll get a welcome email (which is also a video), followed by the other emails – one every three days for two months. And please give me your feedback.

May the Lord bless you and strengthen you for the work to which you have been called.

Your brother in the Good Fight,

www.fatherdave.org
www.fighting-fathers.com
www.holytrinity.org.au
www.binacrombi.com.au
www.israelandpalestine.org
www.prayersforsyria.com
www.dulwichhillgym.com
www.boxersforpeace.com
www.warriorweekends.com

About Father Dave Smith

Preacher, Pugilist, Activist, Father of four

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