“I AM the Vine, you are the branches…” (John 15:5)
“Christmas is not about being with people you like. Christmas is about being with family!”
–Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, Home Improvement
I love the family the Lord has put me in. In fact, I like my family (most of them). And I think most of them like me. Unfortunately, like many of you, I have family scattered all over so occasions like Christmas are nigh unto impossible to get us all together. But this year…this year…I’m thinking differently. For the first time in, like, ever, I am going to enjoy the whole family tree under one roof, at one time, together and intimate.
And here’s how I’m going to do it. One word: genealogies.
The story of Christmas is familial. The two gospelers that leave us with the record of Christ’s birth also include His family tree. Matthew’s gospel shows us the line of Christ giving Him legal right to the Throne of David through his earthly father Joseph. Luke’s genealogical record solves the sticky case of a cursed bloodline by showing Christ as also coming through the untainted lineage of Mary. Long story short, if Christ had only come through Joseph’s line, He could not have sat on the Throne with Divine favor–even though it gave Him legal right to it–because of a ‘little’ problem back there with Jehoiachin (see Jeremiah 22:24-30 and Matthew 1:11,12).
God “got around” this pothole by birthing His only begotten Messiah Son through a virgin who also came through the lineage of David. Here stands Yeshua Hamashiach, with legal and Divine rights to the everlasting throne. A king (Jehoiachin/Jeconiah/Coniah) almost messed up the Christmas ‘Tree’ but a virgin sealed the deal!
Which brings me to my Tree.
Genealogies are quite the rave these days. And quite enthralling, especially when someone else has done all the legwork! I found myself sitting before a computer screen for two hours less than twenty-four hours ago, sorting through names and histories, marveling that the records of my family on my mother’s side go all the way back to the mid-1500’s, housed in the loins of one Rychard Medley who lived in the mystical land of Great Tey, Essex, England. We emigrated to the New World on November 19, 1700 on the sea-sturdy legs of John Medley, my grandfather-times-seven, a 19-year old single man with undoubtedly a vision and a plan.
My family tree shakes out veterans of the Revolutionary War whose service in the military awarded them $28 annually, a Confederate soldier or two from the Civil War, and the daughter of a Cherokee Chief named “Whitesides” presumably after a sheer cliff with (you guessed it) a white side the Indians said looked like a sheet of ice. The princess’ name, by the way, was Morning Dove. Isn’t that sheer poetry?
Allow me one short anecdote about Dove’s husband Joseph, my great-great-great-great grandfather, but only because very little information is supplied-and because this makes me giddy with delight. In 1838, some 14,000 Cherokee Indians were forcibly removed from their homes in North Carolina and Georgia and sent on a long march to the west, a nightmarish journey that saw thousands of men, women and children die on the Trail of Tears. Tragically, this is one of the saddest blights on our heritage.
Out of the gloom steps Joseph Medley who, in his mid-50’s, went to the defense of one of his wives’ relatives as they were being sequestered, and was brutally attacked and killed by knifepoint. His widow lived another 46 years remembering fondly her loving husband’s kind sacrifice. I tell you, I went to bed feeling positively rapturous to be part of such a broadly adventurous and enduring family.
I think I can make a case that I go all the way back to Adam but I really want to keep him buried and forgotten if you don’t mind. My faith family-not my bloodline-has kings and prophets, queens and judges and champions. Apostles and revelators. Martyrs and Preachers. Missionaries and sainted mothers. It’s a rich heritage, I tell you! Pick through the branches and you’ll see some amazing ornaments of grace: a fully converted prostitute, a woman gloriously delivered of seven (count ’em!) demons, a pagan king whom history regards as one of the fiercest and cruelest finally bowing to the reign of Christ. And on and on it goes. And grows.
“You are the branches,” Jesus said. Let those words settle for a grace-filled moment.
He’s telling us He has a Family Tree and we are in it! It’s not some Charlie Brownish pathetic sapling. It’s…organic. Majestically brilliant. Inspiring awe.
While it seems almost laughable to me that Rychard Medley, my grandfather-times-eleven, and I are separated by over 450 years, we are together in the same moment of time by blood. Just so, six thousand years of human history, translating to who knows how many God-followers, and each of us joined to Him at once, sharing in His Life, ever green and glorious.
He in us, we in Him, trimmed, pruned, decorated and lit.
Shine on, O Tannenbaum!