The family names of Jesus – and me.
Her name was Magdalena. Were it not for Magdalena, I would never have been born. Jesus had women like her in His genealogy, too. There is no need for it to bring us shame. Instead, we should look at these secrets hidden – and forgiven – as redemption.
The paparazzi of today would have a hey day with the lineage of Jesus. From the moment of His birth and throughout His ministry, they would have found the secrets of His past. Women who were guilty of adultery, but found redemption, were part of His maternal past: women like Rahab, Tamar, Ruth, and Bathsheba. In addition, these women who were not “church folk”, who functioned as a prostitute, committed adultery, and deceived family, march right in line with the “righteous” folks in His lineage.
There were also men who deceived, lied, committed adultery, and murdered. In addition to the women, these men are listed in that same lopsided, sinful lineup in the genealogy of Christ. The paparazzi would showcase every bit of tarnish across the world because the information is so easily accessible today. Those stories, drudged up again and again, would now be given such a spin that only the worst could be heard while the story of redemption was shushed. You can be certain there would be no secrets hidden!
Jesus knew His genealogy. He also knew His genealogy did not define who He was. He had no secrets hidden, and that is how He was able to minister and meet the needs of others. His past did not define Who He was or Who He is.
The past of my ancestors – and secrets hidden
My family has a few stories of its own. For years, I did not know about these secrets hidden because it was not important that I know. That is because the past was behind us and we were living in today.
We don’t broadcast it loudly, but the stories are there, written and admitted in books that tell the stories of our ancestors. My great-grandmother was the product of fornication. Magdalena, the women who birthed her, never married. Magdalena’s father, Samuel, repented of his sin as a youth and later connected with his grandchildren even though he never married their grandmother. Samuel became a pillar in the community and patriarch of a large family.1 A person deemed a pillar in the community, experiences redemption, for certain. It did not mean he could wipe out the wrong he committed. It did, however, mean that forgiveness and redemption is real and our past does not need to define us.
The fact that, growing up, I never heard his family spoken of disparagingly even though I went to school, attended church and participated in community events with his descendants, tells me that forgiveness was genuine. The fact that I did not even know about this transgression tells me it was forgiven. That’s redemption.
The past is not who we are
There are those of my kin who want to make certain everyone knows the sins of the past. Only, the sins of the past are not mine to proclaim. Others are so embarrassed and full of shame that they don’t want to bear the family name. There are also those who embrace the ancestors of the past and their mistakes, recognizing that all of us are sinners in need of a Savior. In doing so, we embrace the redemption that followed secrets hidden in shame.
The wonder of the Christmas season is that God chooses and uses those of us who are imperfect; those who inherited a sin nature like our ancestors. The wonder of Christmas is that redemption comes through imperfect but redeemed women – and men – who move away from their sin and become new creatures of Christ.
Indeed, this is the wonder of Christmas: there is hope for the secrets hidden in our past. There is redemption through the Savior. That’s Christmas!
1 David I. Miller, Homecoming, edited by Gertrude Slabach, printed by Lulu Online Publishing, 2012, page 3.