Lesson 1: The Women of Christmas in the Stages of Time
As a little girl, Christmas held different memories for me than they did for others. My father had come to Christ as an adult and he was influenced by Christ followers who believed that many Western Christmas practices, such as trees, lights and candles were pagan. My parents had married on Christmas Eve so our Christmas family gathering celebrated their anniversary before we exchanged presents. But I grew up feeling uneasy about Christmas. I knew the birth of Christ was significant, but my parents’ attitude made me look beyond a particular season. After all, His birth was something to value all the time, not just at Christmas. Besides, Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension always overshadowed His birth.
Looking back, I realize that their reaction meant that I missed a lot, especially the practice of joining as a family on Christmas morning to read the marvelous story of the birth of our Savior. However, when I married and moved to Dallas with my husband, we celebrated Christmas like many others. We carefully chose a Christmas tree, decorated it with white lights and lit candles throughout the house. Over the years, as we had our own children, reading the Christmas story to our children became the prelude to gift giving; having neighbors in at Christmas became a primary means of evangelism. Now years later, sharing the account of God becoming a man allows me the grand and glorious enjoyment of a story wider and richer than even my parents or my immediate family can imagine. One part of that story that particularly captures my imagination is the record of how ten women (and consequently, ten men!) provide the amazing God-superintended human context for the Savior’s birth!
The Story is Hidden in His Genealogy – Matthew 1 and Luke 3.
Even a cursory look at Matthew and Luke’s genealogies reminds us what is excluded from the popular cultural and religious celebrations we enjoy at Christmas. (Before you go any further, why not read each of the genealogies – Matthew’s (Matt.1) is written to defend the Lord Jesus’ right to be the Jewish King. He is related to Abraham and David! Luke’s (Luke 3) is written to defend the Lord Jesus’ right as the One who is fully human, the son of Adam who is able to be the perfect substitute for my sin and yours.
We focus narrowly on the baby and his parents. Scripture connects us to a story longer, deeper, richer and more profound than we commonly celebrate. Mary may be the final, God-blessed link in the chain of God’s purpose, but she is only one of ten women, some with dubious backgrounds, whose lives connect with Messiah. Together they show us that the coming Savior is the divinely promised Redeemer for all peoples in all places. And they remind us again of the wonderful grace of our God.
1. Christ’s Wider Family.
At first, the genealogies seem to be a long and uninteresting list of names. But a closer look reveals that the stories behind some of those names are rather shocking. Stories the Bible makes no attempt to hide! Some stories are of women of grace, whose names we are not surprised to see. And others, not found in the family line, appear in the story to bear witness to the greatness of the One whose coming they witnessed. All without exception share the privilege of an association with one of history’s greatest events, the birth of the God-man.
This Christmas, why not journey to the past in the ancient text and meet these ten women of Christmas? You may discover characteristics from their lives in your own life or in those with whom you seek to share the Savior with this Christmas!
2. Take the time now for a look at the seven Old Testament women in Christ’s ancestry.
As you read each of the passages listed in DAYS TWO through FIVE, list the names of the ‘woman of Christmas” and create a profile, on a separate piece of paper, noting two significant things about each woman’s life. (For those eager to learn more and wish a wider view, use a concordance to find other passages that speak of each woman’s life and its meaning.)
Comment on the following:
- How each one became a ‘woman of Christmas’ and the lessons she teaches.
- How God’s sovereign grace overruled in each woman’s life in spite of everything that happened….
The PRIMORDIAL women – those from the earliest times and stage of earth’s history.
- EVE: In spite of her death-causing sin, Eve is named “mother of the living” by her husband. In spite of being seduced by the evil one into rebellion, God did not reject her, but, even in the midst of pronouncing judgment, declared that it would be “the seed of the woman” that would one day crush the serpent’s head. Indeed it is her son, Seth, who inaugurates the line of promise leading to the Savior. Deceived by the devil to see, eat and die, God allows her the privilege to bear children. Her son, Seth, son of promise, confirms that the godly seed “will crush the serpent’s head”. (Gen. 3:15)
- “JOAN of ARK”: Noah’s unnamed wife, whose strength lives in the fact that she modeled godly, patient support of her husband’s preaching, gives birth to Shem, another of the godly line. It is from Shem that the larger family of which Israel will be a part, the Semites, came into being. Thus the Jewish nation gains their name, Semites. (Gen. 6:10)
The PATRIARCHAL women – those who carried the promise God initiated with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The promise is seminal to our understanding of Old Testament history and is called the Abrahamic covenant.
- SARAI: Sarah, the senior citizen who first laughed in disbelief at the promise of God, became pregnant through God’s intervention and gives birth to “little laughter”. Isaac, son of Abraham, son of the covenant, is the archetype of the Savior. Like his offspring to come, he is the sacrificial son of promise. (Gen. 12:2; 18:9-16; 21:1-8; 1 Peter 3:1-11)
- TAMAR: Tamar, wife of Judah’s wicked sons, Er and Onan, was reduced by the actions of irresponsible men to seducing her father–in-law, tricking him into sleeping with her in order to raise a seed for Judah’s son. The result of this incest is a set of twins. What a strange and ugly event to find in one’s family ancestry! Yet Perez became Tamar’s contribution to the godly line! (Gen. 38)
The THEOCRACY women – those whose lives were touched by Israel as she was led into Canaan by Joshua and ruled by the judges. (Notice: there are no women listed in Jesus’ geneology from the time of Moses. But Moses himself is protected first by his mother and sister to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.)
- RAHAB: Rahab, the Jericho prostitute, believes the report of Israel’s military strength and of God’s presence with them. Her faith in Yahweh saved not only Israel’s spies but also her and her family. She marries Salmon and this transformed prostitute is bonded forever to Messiah by the birth of her son, Boaz.
- RUTH: In turn, Rahab’s son’s marriage to Ruth, the once pagan Moabitess, produces Obed, great-grandfather to King David. The story of Ruth is both an amazing story of the themes of ‘hesed’ (kindness/loyal love) and ‘kinsman redeemer’ (the relative who is not only able but WILLING to be the redeemer!). (Josh.2; Ruth 1-4)
The UNITED MONARCHY woman – the primary woman who carries in her ‘seed’ the Abrahamic covenant (the son of Abraham, son of David) and the soon to be established Davidic Covenant (the King who has rights to the royal throne and eternal kingdom) comes to us through the sordid story of adultery, lies and murder.
- BATHSHEBA: Bathsheba, a participant in the most sordid event in David’s life, marries David, the man after God’s own heart. Repenting of adultery, David undergoes God’s grace bestowing on him the Davidic Covenant. Bathsheba’s sons, personally know God’s grace as Solomon and Nathan become Jesus’ ancestors through Mary and Joseph. Humanly, the Savior qualifies to reign as the royal Son of David on David’s throne. (2 Sam. 7 and 11)
Now take a look at the three New Testament women whose lives graced the coming of our Lord’s.
- ELIZABETH: 400 years of God’s silence pass. Elizabeth, aged cousin of Mary, lives a lifetime of barrenness. Her pregnancy is God’s sign to Mary that “with God all things are possible”. Elizabeth’s child is said to be the greatest man born among women, in spite of his shortened life! He is Christ’s cousin and the Elijah-like forerunner of our Savior. (Luke 1:57-80)
- MARY: Mary’s teenage words, “…be it unto me as you have said…” capture the grand surrender of a young woman yielding her very body to the Great I AM. Her choice to house the Christchild prepares the world for the climax of the ages according to the eternal plan “…in the fullness of times…born of a woman…born under the law to redeem those cursed by the law…” (Lk. 1:38, 46-56; Gal. 4:4).
- ANNA: As the Christmas event draws to a glorious conclusion, the very Presence of God – the Glory (Luke 2:36-38) – is carried to the Temple mount by His parents on His eighth day to bear of sign of the Abrahamic covenant. Anna, serving at the temple for over 60 years with fasting and prayers, praised God, speaking to others of His glory in the very place from which the Glory had once departed. ( Ez. 3:12, 23; 8:4; 9:3; 10:4, 18; 11:22-24; John 1:14)
Our world is impacted by “celebrity-ism” as success, on every hand. It happens in the political world, the entertainment world and even the Christian world. But God has never used the world’s standards to measure His women! He teaches us a different way of measuring success.
His Word shows us how these ten women of Christmas influence us permanently because they are HIS CHOICE VESSELS! Their backgrounds and personal stories are reminders that God’s ways are not ours. He lifts women from nowhere and honors them because He chooses to work in their lives! It is not about them; it is about HIM! And at the end of their day, we see how God has worked quietly in them, transforming them and developing the qualities of patience, confidence, peace, contentment and joy.
God does the same for us! We are His family by adoption and new birth. Ask yourself these few questions in light of these women’s lives, as you use this day to pray:
- Am I able to accept unfavorable circumstances calmly?
- Am I aware of the situations in my life that threaten to rob me of patience, confidence, peace, contentment and joy?
- Have I learned to “bring every thought captive to the mind of Christ” in the following areas:
- When I encounter sin in my life? (What do I do?)
- When I experience challenging relationships with others? (How do I cope?)
- When I recognize God’s plan for my life is different than mine? (How long does it take me to surrender?)
Choose a few of the characteristics you admire in these women and ask the Lord today to develop them in your life.
Used with permission, taken from a Bible Study of the same name, available through www.trinityonline.org
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