THIS MORNING OUR SEVEN YEAR OLD GRAND-GIRL KARLEE was standing in the middle of our living room, pulling up her tights. “That looks like a lot of work!” I observed.
Then she explained, “Sometimes beauty is painful.” A lesson, she shared with me in great detail, was from Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid”.
I’ve been thinking this season about the Christmas story, you know the one we’ve heard so many times; this being my sixty-fifth Christmas. I thought about G.K. Chesterton’s quote I shared in the previous post, about adulthood and our loss of wonder which causes us to experience monotony. So I started reading Matthew’s account of the story, and truthfully, almost gave out halfway through the genealogy monologue. But wait… What’s up with these five women?
One of them is obvious: Mary, the mother of Jesus. Of course she deserves to be listed, but these other four? I wonder if there was ever a time when the Disciples were gathered around the campfire waiting for the fish to cook, that maybe Jesus asked Matthew, “Hey, Matt, I get why you mentioned my mom and maybe Ruth; but Tamar, Rahab The Prostitute, and Bathsheba?!”
Of course he never asked Matthew about that. My guess is that Jesus was not at all embarrassed to have listed in his public record women like Tamar, who pretended to be a hooker so she could trick her father-in-law in to having sex with her, or Rahab The Prostitute, a real prostitute, or Bathsheba (mentioned only as the wife of her husband) who had an adulterous affair with the king (David) and then the king had her husband moved to the front line of the war so that he would surely be killed.
Maybe WE’VE made the story monotonous by making sure that it’s all cleaned up and sanitized. We want to make sure that Jesus complies with our politics and religiousity. And in making him like us, we’ve made him boring.
I hope if you were planning to get a “caucasian” nativty set from Sam’s Club, you didn’t wait to late, because they are sold out. What’s even more sad is that some company felt compelled to make a “caucasian” nativity set in the first place, and Sam’s Club knew they would sell like enormous plastic bottles of puffed cheese balls.
Another thing about those “other” women that Matthew mentioned: not all of them were Jews, most were Gentiles, Moabites, Hittites and such. So there’s that.
I’ve never given birth, but I have been present. I know this: in the experience, there was both beauty and pain. Like Jesus, we all have a family tree. In those trees are stories of both beauty and pain.
In Jesus’ life there are two tableaux we remember more than any others. One we see so much this season, with a little baby in a manger. The other is of a cross on a hill. In both there is pain and beauty; and stories that never grow old.