“If you can’t identify the most dysfunctional person in your family … it’s probably you!”
That’s a big of an overstatement, of course, but it’s the kind of overstatement that’s designed to open the door for a lot of helpful conversations about boundaries, forgiveness, patience, and sacrificial love. If we can’t love our dysfunctional family members, who can we love? That’s a hard question, but it’s a question all Christians have to wrestle with. If Jesus loves people who sin against him, how can we claim to be followers of Jesus if we refuse to love people who sin against us? If Jesus was able to welcome dysfunctional people into his family … then it seems to make sense that the gospel gives us some resources for loving the dysfunctional people in our own families! (One of the greatest things about the gospel … is that it enables us to see our own dysfunction more clearly. We are so sinful that Jesus had to die on the cross for us! But at the same time, we’re so loved that we’re able to confess our sins and shortcomings without fear. Amazing!)
This Christmas, we’re going to revisit an Advent series we began in 2017. It’s called Awkward Family Photos – Season 2. Like we did in Season 1, we’re going to do a deep dive into the lives of some of Jesus’ dysfunctional family members. Would it surprise you that Jesus had someone in his family tree who not once, but twice tried to throw his wife under the bus to save himself from a foreign king? (Metaphorically speaking, of course. There were no busses in ancient Israel. Maybe he threw his wife under the camel. In any case, it wasn’t good!) Would it surprise you to learn that Jesus had murders and adulterers in his family tree? (Would it surprise you to learn that the murderer and the adulterer are the same person?) Would it surprise you that there are a lot of ordinary people in Jesus’ family tree, people like Melea and Menna and Mattatha, people who aren’t mentioned anywhere else in the Bible? Would it surprise you that there are Gentiles in Jesus’ family tree? (That’s not a very offensive detail to most of us, given the fact that most of the people reading this are Gentiles … but for Jewish people it’s terribly offensive! It’s shocking! How can the Jewish Messiah have Gentiles in his family tree?! To borrow a line from the great Wallace Shawn – “Inconceivable!”)
How well do you know the people behind the Awkward Family Photos in Jesus’ family tree? Every week during the Advent Season, we’ll be highlighting one of Jesus’ dysfunctional family members, in order to remind us that Jesus came to save sinners – awkward, dysfunctional people like us! That’s the good news of Christmas. Beyond the lights, the candles, the cookies, and the warm apple cider, lies the story of how God entered into our messy, sinful world … to give messy, sinful people hope.
The gospel truly is good news of great joy – for all kinds of people! I look forward to celebrating that with you this month … and into the New Year. Praise God for his grace! Merry Christmas!