The messy stories of faith

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What do a prostitute, two women who appeared to have committed adultery, a woman who very clearly had and was possibly a co-conspirator in a murder cover-up have in common with Mary, the mother of Jesus? All four are scandalous women from his family history.

Many of us, if we are blessed to have a family history, know of at least one person down the line who either we don't talk about much or, if we do, talk about only in a whisper. There are men and women of our lineage whose character and life choices were questionable, embarrassing and not something you want to write about in detailed history. Yet this is precisely what the Bible does.

Matthew, under the inspiration of God, primarily wrote to men and women of Jewish heritage. He understood that when he mentioned certain names that they would know the story connected to that name. They would understand that Rahab was a well-known prostitute in the city of Jericho. They would empathize with the widow Tamar, a Canaanite woman who in her quest to preserve her husband's heritage, posed as a prostitute to become impregnated by her former father-in-law. The action proved more obedient to the God's provisional law than the men whom she loved (unfortunately time and space do not allow me to explain this in great detail).

They knew Ruth was from Moab. She did not have to be where she was. She chose to propose more than marriage by lying at the feet of a man. The wife of Uriah is Bathsheba. The woman whom David, the king of Israel, saw bathing on the rooftop of her home and lusted after and slept with. When he becomes aware that she is pregnant, a massive cover-up begins eventually leading to murder.

Then we meet Mary, who becomes the wife of Joseph, and as a young unmarried girl in her early teenage years announces to her future husband, her family, the world and all of history that she is pregnant with Emmanuel.

What a scandalous way to begin the Christmas message!

The story of faith is messy. The story of Christmas is not as sterile as the Nativity scenes that decorate our front yards. The story of faith is precisely that: faith. It is faith that God transforms our failures to his future. It is faith, not ourselves, that gives hope at Christmas.

@body_no_indent italics:Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father, minister and writer. Read more from him at

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