So, about this time every year, one expects to hear the rumblings of the Christ story, the Nativity, the Advent of the Messiah. In churches (around the US, at least), plans reaches a fever pitch for Christmas parties, dramas, cantatas, live Nativity scenes and candlelight Christmas Eve services. The Church world awaits the coming of the Son of God.
Yet only in a few places does Jesus explicitly refer to himself the “Son of God” (John 3:16-18, 5:25, 11:4). He infers it in a handful of passages (Luke 22:70, Matthew 26:63-64), but even in these parallel accounts of Jesus’ interrogation before Pilate, when asked if he is the Son of God, Jesus responds “Yes” and qualifies it by referring to himself as the “Son of Man.”
Jesus seems far more interested in identifying himself as human, as the “Son of Man.” He certainly is recognized as “Son of God” by many people, especially the apostle John, who wrote so that we might believe in the Son of God. But Jesus prefers to be known as a fellow human and to show through his actions that he is God’s son. (Though not my point, this would be good for Christians to take to heart: to speak of ourselves first as truly human and let our actions prove that we belong to God). The Book of Matthew alone records Jesus referring to himself as the “Son of Man” in 30 separate passages. The other Gospels account for 51 more “Son of Man” statements by Jesus referring to himself! So what does this have to do with us? What do we do with this?
Matthew, in the first chapter of his book, relates Jesus’ ancestery. In it we find very human, very broken and sinful people. In fact, Matthew records 4 women as Jesus’ early ancestors, none of whom should have been included if Matthew’s point was to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God. Tamar and Rahab were prostitues, and Rahab and Ruth were not Israelites (and in all probability, neither was Bathsheba). And remember David’s adultery and murder? The account also names several evil kings of Judah as well as other good ones and a whole mess of unknown parents.
Matthew is telling us in no uncertain terms that Jesus came to us through humanity. Certainly Matthew recognizes him as the Son of God, but his point tells us that all of these ancestors, the good and evil, Jew and Gentile, honest and deceitful all had a hand in bringing the Messiah to the world. And therein lies the hope for us. If God was content to incarnate Jesus through this, at best, shaky lineage then we too have a place in the incarnation of Christ to our world, our community, our family. Even through all of our messy lives, half-hearted devotion and misplaced passion, God wants to incarnate Jesus. He is the Son of God and truly the Son of Sinners. Jesus has cemented his place in history. And the Son of Man still wants to incarnate himself into ours.