Mothers of Messiah
Genealogies often look like a grocery list of names. But if you
take the time to “listen,” a genealogy reveals a story—a thread
woven into the history of a family that connects one generation
to the next.
The genealogy in Matthew 1 tells the story of Christ’s human
ancestors; evidence that God became flesh and dwelt with us. Jesus
was born into a family whose history, like ours, is filled with stories
of heroes and stories that people might prefer to leave hidden.
The following monologues, which can be used each week as
the Advent candles are lit, highlight the women in Christ’s genealogy.
If you use these monologues you may also want to teach
your congregation the song from Matthew 1, “In Matthew’s
Gospel There Are Five” (see p. 28). —JB
Who Is This Jesus?
Have you heard so much about the child of promise, the newborn King, and the Savior of all that the words just don’t stir you anymore?
Can I really know him? Who is this Jesus?
Matthew begins answering this question in the opening verses of his gospel. Who is Jesus? He is a son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is descended from Jesse and David and Solomon. His “mothers” include Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. At first glance this genealogy seems like a list of names that has no meaning for us today. But behind these names are stories of suffering, of grace, of triumph.
This Advent we will explore a few of these people’s stories. Their lives show God’s remarkable plan to use ordinary people to prepare the way for the Messiah. In this family tree you’ll find farmers, business people, mothers, foreigners, and prostitutes alongside patriarchs and kings. This family history covers shining moments as well as dark deeds discussed only in whispers. This is Jesus’ family; it’s part of who he is.
Look for the gleaming thread of God’s grace woven through these stories. Find proof of God’s power to turn darkness into light. Find hope that the Redeemer foretold has come to live among us and graft us into God’s family. [light candle]
Today we light the candle of hope: the hope promised by prophets long ago. The Hope born to bear our sin. The hope for a future provided by Jesus’ sacrifice. The assurance that we can know God personally.
[light one purple candle before worship]
There’s waiting and then there’s waiting. Extended, prolonged, heart-wrenching, “why, God?” waiting. That’s my story.
Judah, son of Jacob, selected me to be a wife to his firstborn son, Er. If I bore a son, I might become a prominent woman in the family. The wait began—waiting for my womb to open—to become a mother. Waiting to experience the blessing my foremothers promised—the blessing of security in a family of my own. But no child came.
After my husband died I was given to his brother but there was still no child. No security. No status. I was considered a failure and a curse. Er’s youngest brother, Shelah, was not yet of marriageable age. So Judah sent me back to the household of my father to wait for him.
I waited. When Shelah was ready for marriage, I waited still. Waited behind my widow’s veil for another chance at a future.
It’s true that I took drastic measures to claim what was mine by right. I disguised myself and waited for Judah alongside the road. Judah mistook me for a shrine prostitute and unwittingly fulfilled his son’s destiny. And then I waited once more to see whether I would conceive.
When I realized I was with child I felt a tingling mixture of thrill and fear. The mother of twins! Soon I would no longer be able to hide my secret. Would Judah abandon me or would he accept his heirs?
When Judah discovered I was pregnant he was furious! The rumors shamed him and his household. He ordered my execution. At that moment, I revealed his paternity. And then I waited once more, certain my life and the lives of my twins would end. Would Judah deny me? Would God abandon me?
I waited in anguish until my prayers were answered. It was more than I hoped for! Judah apologized to me and welcomed me back into his family. I bore him twin sons to carry on his line.
I am just an ordinary woman. But somehow by God’s amazing grace, what I did became part of what God was doing. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine becoming a mother in the line of the Messiah. [light candle]
Today we light the candle of faith. God’s Word provides many stories like mine that demonstrate his sovereignty—if we have faith. Faith that an ordinary life lived with a heart for God can accomplish the extraordinary. That failure can blossom into fruitfulness. That despite the darkness, God’s plan will prevail!
[light two purple candles before worship]
Sometimes all you can do is take a step. When you can’t see what’s coming next you take one step forward. And then another. Fear may leave you breathless, but can it possibly be worse than where you are right now?
That’s what I felt like, following Naomi to a strange new country. Naomi had lost her husband and two sons—one ofthem my husband. We were starving. Naomi begged me toreturn to my father’s house because she could not providefor me, but I followed her to Bethlehem in Judea.
It was a long journey, step after aching step. There wasplenty of time to consider that as a foreigner and a childlesswidow I would be at the mercy of Naomi’s people. Butmy love for Naomi and her God propelled me down thisroad toward an unknown future.
Our people—the Israelites and the Moabites—arerelated, you know. Their father is Abraham, ours is Lot.The Moabites are a despised people. My very name, “Ruthof Moab,” was a judgment on my character. I had no status.No prospects. All I could offer Naomi was my devotion andthe sweat of my brow.
At that bleak moment, God’s grace began to light ourway. To provide for the fatherless, widow, and foreigner,God had commanded the people to set aside a portion oftheir fields. I could go and glean for food. But in Boaz’sfield I found so much more than grain. I found unspeakablegrace. His protection and provision helped me see thatall these steps I had been taking into the dark unknownwere carrying me to his fields.
This winding path from sorrow to joy began with onestep. I received hope and a future as wife to Boaz andmother to Obed—grandfather of King David and forebearof the Messiah! I was an outsider drawn into grace. I experiencedthe joy of stepping out of emptiness into abundanceand unmerited redemption.
Today we light the candle of joy. Joy that God adopts usinto his family. Joy that the Messiah has come to redeempeople of every tribe and tongue.
[light three purple candle before worship]
My story precedes me in hushed whispers when I walk intoa room. I’ve heard the epithets, the harsh judgments. Myone secret act of indiscretion made me a public spectacle.
One wrong choice set loose an avalanche of offensesseemingly too powerful to stop. The weight of it was crushing.Not only did I endure public shame when my adulterywas exposed but I had to live with the scorn of family andfriends. There was no consideration for my remorse over mysin and my despair over my murdered husband. Add to thatthe horrifying confrontation between David and the prophetNathan. God spared our lives, but he would not withholdthe consequences of our actions. While David fasted andpleaded for our child, I watched him struggle to take hisfinal breaths. Ongoing discord in David’s family plagued useven after David’s death. What we did was wrong. What wethought was a private sin affected an entire kingdom.
But today if you remember me at all, I implore you toremember not my sin but God’s grace.
While God allowed us to suffer the grave results ofour deeds, he also provided us with the grace to survive.Utterly humbled, we had the perfect vantage point to recognizeGod’s remarkable grace. We named our second son“peace”—it’s all we wanted. God named Solomon “loved”—for God loved him and offered us a second chance.[light candle]
Today we light the candle of grace. Despite our sin andthe darkness in our hearts, God’s grace is sufficient torestore our brokenness. That grace is offered to you as a giftthis Advent in the form of Jesus, God’s only Son.
[light four purple candles before worship]
Many still ask, “Who is this Jesus?”
He is my son. He is at once a mystery and possibility.Truth and Way.
From the angel’s first visit I have pondered so many questionsin my heart. How can it be that God would entrustme—a peasant girl not yet married—with his Son? So manyyoung girls dreamed of bearing the Messiah. So manynamed their firstborn son Jesus—“the Lord saves”—as a cryto God for deliverance. But this was different. How wouldpeople know that my son was miraculously conceived?Fully human and fully God?
How can it be that a King is born in a cave? How can theMessiah enter the world as a helpless newborn? Infinite lovemade visible, clothed with skin and bone. Announced byangels. Worshiped by shepherds. Sought by kings. Rejectedby his people.
How can this be God’s plan? What kind of love is this?Mystery and possibility. Truth and Way.
[light Christ candle, a white candle in the middle of theAdvent wreath]
Tonight we light the Christ candle. Love born in theheart of God entered the world so we could know God. Godwith arms and legs, fingers and toes. Healing paralyzedlimbs. Speaking with authority over the crashing waves ofGalilee. Freely offering his life for ours. What kind of love isthis? Divine love. Who is this Jesus? He is the undeservedgift of love to me, to you.