The genealogy of the virgin Mary: a picture of grace

In the course of comprehending the virgin birth of the promised Savior, Jesus Christ, we ponder with Mary all what was told her in the days leading up to and after the birth of the Christ child.

We are told that Jesus the Christ was of the lineage of David as foretold by the prophets. But, we are not told of the lineage of Mary. We gather a glimpse of the character of Joseph of being an honorable man with high character by wanting to divorce Mary quietly when he heard the startling news of her pregnancy. Since Mary is the cousin of Elizabeth, the wife of a priest, then we could gather that she may have come from a family of good repute. Besides, in arranged marriages, the rank and reputation of families were exceedingly important when decisions were made and dowries established for the purpose of choosing potential spouses. We could safely assume that both Mary and Joseph came from good families who were faithful followers of the God Almighty, the one true God of the Israelites.

But perhaps not?

God works in unusual ways. He has a way of taking the most ordinary of men or women to do extraordinary things. Humility seems to be the noblest of character traits in the eyes of God, and it’s very tough for humans to be humble when granted riches, authority, or good standing in this life. Our pride is too swift to take full credit. No wonder God chose David, the youngest of gifted, talented and more handsome older brothers. Even Nathan was surprised at the choice. The list is endless of God choosing the most unlikely of candidates, including the twelve apostles, to carry out amazing purposes. Why couldn’t the same be applied to Mary? Perhaps she wasn’t the most popular girl in town, maybe she wasn’t particularly pretty, maybe she led a simple life without any amazing gifts, except for one thing: she believed in God. And that was all God looked for.

When we look at the genealogy of Christ laid out for us in the book of Matthew, we notice that several women are mentioned including Bathsheba, Tamar, and Rahab. They were not exactly women who had great reputations, yet God still used them to fulfill a great promise.

I guess it wouldn’t shock me if we found out that Mary came from a family that had a tarnished reputation. We knew she was a virgin, for that was sure. But perhaps her family carried within their line a stigma of not being faithful, of making poor decisions in life, of not having a family of high social standing. As a result, perhaps if the controversy of an unplanned pregnancy came to be, she would know how to deal with it. I mean, who would believe her story? Who would believe that she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit? Who would believe that both Mary and Joseph was visited by an angel? It’s one thing to try and believe and comprehend the news of the angel, it’s quite another to live in disgrace in a close-knit community where whispers and gazes follow your every step.

No, it wouldn’t be a surprise to me if Mary’s genealogy included a humble past, because that seems to be God’s way. And we can take heart that despite ourselves, God still uses fragile jars of clay that have a high propensity of messing up. He has a way of wiping the slate clean despite our past.

Humility seems to be the theme for Christmas. A humbled Mary, a humble manger, and God himself became man in the greatest act of humiliation of all.  A promise kept to breathe grace into the world.

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