When most Christians think about the Christmas story, they imagine the nativity. You know, the scene depicted by your nativity set. There's a stable and some animals and figurines and of course, the baby Jesus. A nativity set without baby Jesus is just silly. The entire point is Jesus.
When we open our Bible to the gospel accounts that explain our nativity set, we turn to Luke 2:1-20 for the birth story and account of the shepherds, and then we turn to Matthew 2:1-12 to be sure we get the wise men in there. But "nativity" comes from a Latin word that morphed with a French word. Both words mean "birth" and the combined word also means "birth." If we want to tell the story that explains our table-top nativity set, these two Scripture references do a nice job. But if we're looking in Matthew to the birth story of Jesus, we need to back up to Chapter 1.
The birth of Jesus is told in the first chapter of Matthew. All of the first chapter. You might be confused because the first 17 verses are a list of genealogy from Abraham all the way to Joseph. Most people skim these verses and move on. But then they miss the foundation of the nativity of Christ found in Matthew 1:18-25.
Verse 18 opens "Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way." But this is not the first birth mentioned in Matthew Chapter 1. The word "fathered" appears 39 times in the 17 verses before the nativity. There's a point here. There's a genealogy that includes fathers and lots of births and lots of sons. And there's another birth coming. A special birth. One with a special father. One, the likes of which the world has never seen. The mother will be a virgin and she will give birth to a son who will be called Immanuel, or "God with us."
The nativity of Christ is rooted in the genealogy of the Old Testament. The history is an important part of the story. Jesus brings hope and a look to the future, but his story started in the past. The nativity is the point when looking back and looking forward collide.
It's difficult to see the table-top nativity set as a celebration of God's redeeming work in the past and a hopeful joy in the promise of his redeeming work in your future. However, in my house, we have a Christmas decoration that helps us see this if we look closely. I'll share more about that this Sunday as I turn to the nativity story in Matthew chapter 1. I hope you'll join us.
Pastor Bryan Catherman