And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah. (Matthew 1:6b)
The Gospel According to Matthew begins with, “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” It then goes on for seventeen verses listing fathers and sons from Abraham, the father of Isaac, up to “Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born.”
We usually skip these seventeen verses when talking about the birth of Jesus. It’s full of names that are hard to pronounce like Zerubbabel and Aminadab, and let’s be honest, the only genealogy we are interested in is our own. And even then, not that interested.
However, there are a few interesting tidbits in Jesus’ family tree, if we take a moment to notice. One of those tidbits is the way Matthew includes four women by name before coming to Mary, “of whom Jesus was born.” And each of these four women have a somewhat sketchy past.
As Amy-Jill Levine points out in her “Beginners Guide to Advent” we have the widow Tamar, who tricks her father-in-law into thinking she is a prostitute and with him conceives twins.
There is Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho who protects the Israelite spies sent by Joshua as the Israelites retake the Promised Land.
Then Ruth, the Moabite widow, seduces Boaz (of Bethlehem) and becomes the great-grandmother of King David.
And finally, we meet “the wife of Uriah.” This would be Bathsheba, with whom king David had an affair and then when he found out that Bathsheba was pregnant, arranged for her husband, Uriah, to be killed in battle so that he could marry her, and no one would know.
With all of that, by the time we get to Mary, “of whom Jesus was born,” her pregnancy before she and Joseph were married doesn’t seem that scandalous.
I suspect all families have their “skeletons in the closet.” We are all human, even the heroes of the Bible. But even with that past, in the fullness of time that crazy family tree brought forth Jesus, the Messiah. And your family, with a past of its own, brought forth YOU.
The holidays can be challenging for some families. It’s a good time to practice patience, forgiveness, and unconditional love. No family is perfect, not even Jesus’. But hope, peace, joy and love can be found anyway. May those gifts be found with you and your family this Christmas. And may it be a merry one.