Christmas held different memories for me as a little girl than it
did for most others. My father came to Christ as an adult and was
influenced by Christ’s followers who believed that many practices such
as putting up trees, lights, and candles were pagan. So while I knew
the birth of Christ was significant, I tended to look beyond Christ’s
birth to His death, resurrection, and ascension.
married and moved to Dallas with my husband, however, 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, we
began the practice of joining as a family on Christmas morning to read
the marvelous story of the birth of our Savior. This became a prelude
to giving gifts, and having neighbors to our home at Christmastime
became a primary means of evangelism. Now years later, sharing the
account of God becoming a man allows me the grand enjoyment of a story
wider and richer than I ever imagined as a child. One part of Jesus’
birth that particularly captures my imagination is the record of how
five women provided the human context for the divine Savior’s arrival.
a cursory look at Matthew’s genealogy reminds us of what is excluded
from the popular cultural and religious celebrations we enjoy at
Christmas. We focus narrowly on the baby and His parents, yet Scripture
connects us to a story that’s 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 five women, some
with dubious backgrounds, whose lives connect with the Messiah.
Collectively they show us that the coming Savior is the divinely
promised Redeemer, available for all people in all places. And they
remind us again of the wonderful grace of our God.
not journey this year to the past in the ancient text and meet these
five women of Christmas? You may discover that characteristics from
their lives mirror your own. Better yet, you may share their amazing
stories with those whom you seek to introduce to the Savior.
wife first to Judah’s wicked son, Er, and then Onan after Er’s death,
was reduced by the actions of irresponsible men to seduce and trick her
father-in-law into sleeping with her in order to raise a descendant for
Er. The result was the birthing of twins, Perez and Zerah. 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 Jericho prostitute, believed 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 married Salmon and
she, a transformed prostitute, is bonded forever to the Messiah by the
birth of her son, Boaz. In turn his marriage to Ruth, the once-pagan Moabite girl, produced Obed, grandfather to King David (Josh. 2; Ruth 4).
a participant in the most sordid event in David’s life, married David,
who was the man after God’s own heart. Repenting of adultery, David
experienced God’s grace that bestowed on him the Davidic Covenant.
Bathsheba’s sons personally knew God’s grace, as both Solomon and
Nathan became 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, 11).
The words Mary spoke as a
teenager, “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38), capture the
grand surrender of a young woman yielding her very body to the great I
AM. Her choice to house the Christ-Child prepared 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” (Gal. 4:4).
Much as a choir cries forth in
glorious strains of joy, these five women of Christmas lift up the
worth of our Savior from faith stories that are at once shocking yet
simple. Who could imagine that such people would be so intimately
associated with the Savior’s ancestry, birth, and life? They show us
God’s powerful grace. They give us hope and constrain us to bow low in
humble adoration before the Savior.
These five women in the
lineage of Christ whisper to us the real story of Christmas. They allow
us an opportunity to question the value of decorating trees, hanging
lights, and spending money as our primary celebration of Christmas.
They push us to simplify our celebrations and bring our families near
to explore together these stories that carry eternal truths. When we
do, we find we have a Savior who: (1) willingly associates with the
most sinful and disqualified of us all; (2) transforms personal failure
into eternal blessing; (3) forgives the darkest of sin; (4) gives great
hope during dark days; (5) values surrender to His will above all
things; and (6) gladly receives ?praise from those who recognize His
Dr. Elizabeth Inrig (MA[BS], 1993) is
coordinator of women’s ministry at Trinity Church in Redlands,
California. She is also national director of women’s ministry for the
Evangelical Free Church of America.