“Wait Upon the Lord with Faith” – Matthew 1:1-25
Can you tell me about some trees – some names of trees, and how trees are different – coniferous / deciduous. (Show pictures.) Look at this tree (in the sanctuary). What kind of tree is it? Oh, be careful, it’s a trick question. It’s a fake tree!! It’s not real at all. It never grew out of the ground. It doesn’t bear fruit. It doesn’t have any pine cones or acorns. It doesn’t smell nice. Does your family decorate a real tree for Christmas? Isn’t that a funny thing to do… get a tree that grows in the ground, cut it off, and put it on a stand in your house for a month?
1. Family Trees
I want to talk for a bit about another kind of tree. Has anyone ever heard of such a thing as a family tree? What is a family tree? Does it produce baby humans on the branches? Is it a tree that a family plants in their yard? Well, I guess it could be, but I am talking about something else. What do you think I am taking about? (Wait for answers.)
You are right! A family tree is a way to explain the history of a family and how people are related to each other. The bigger the family is, the more branches there will be on the family tree. I have a picture of a family tree that my grandparents had hanging in their living room.
I am on one of the branches at the left side. And you can see my parents, and my grandparents, and my great grandmother who live until I was almost 30 years old, and my uncle (I worked on his farm when I was in high school), and my cousin (who was in a singing group that traveled across Canada). I also have some books that are like printed family trees… with ALL my relatives for almost 200 years.
Let me get back to the family tree and my great grandmother… she was the one who had a sealskin fur coat that, after she died, was made into some soft teddy bears. This is mine. I didn’t get it because I deserve it. I didn’t get it because I did a lot of things for her. I didn’t get because I was her favourite great grandson. I got it simply because I was a member of the family, on the family tree.
On my family tree, my cousin is perhaps the most famous person, because he was with a Christian singing group that traveled all across Canada and sang at probably a hundred different churches, and at youth gatherings, and at church conventions. There are people all over Canada that know Joel.
2. Abraham’s family tree – famous Bible guy
There is one particular famous guy in the Bible – his name was Abraham – and the Bible is kind of like the story of his family tree and all the adventures of his children, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren… God promised Abraham that he would have so many branches on his family tree that no one would be able to count them. That would be a BIG tree, with lots and lots and lots of branches, and with hundreds, thousands, millions of leaves that each represented a person.
The problem with that family tree was that Abraham did not have even one child, one branch, with his wife Sarah, and he was already way too old to even be a grandpa, much less a dad. But God didn’t budge. He didn’t take his promise back either. He double promised.
God didn’t just promise all those descendants, but he also promised that through one of his descendants – when we have kids and grandkids and great-grandkids they’re called descendants – through one of Abraham’s descendants all of the nations of the earth would be blest. That means that there would be someone special who would be part of Abraham’s family who would do something great, fantastic, unbelievable for the whole world.
3. Promise to Abraham kept in Jesus
Was anyone paying attention when I read that second reading, the Epistle (Epistle is another word for letter) to the Romans? A man named Paul wrote that letter to tell the people in Rome about Jesus. In chapter four he reminds people of God’s promise to Abraham, and then he tells them that God kept his all-nations-of-the-world-would-be-blest promise when he sent Jesus. Jesus wasn’t the first branch on Abraham’s family tree. He was that one special descendant who would do something great, fantastic, unbelievable for the whole world. You might already be guessing what that great, fantastic, unbelievable thing is, but I’m not going to talk about it… yet.
Paul also talked about how the people, including Abraham and everyone after him, had to trust in God’s promises. When we trust in God’s promises and believe that he will keep them even though we can’t see into the future, and even though we can’t see him, we call that faith.
Even though Abraham and his wife Sarah were very old, and even though they didn’t have any kids yet, they believed, they had faith, that God could do anything he wanted, and because God always keeps his promises, Abraham and Sarah had faith in God. And guess what! When they were very old, they had a baby, a boy named Isaac, and then Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau, and then Jacob had twelve sons, and from that time on the family grew and grew! God kept his promise!
In the reading from the Gospel of Matthew we heard a long list of people who were all a part of that family tree. It began with Abraham… Who does that list end with? (Wait for answers.) That’s right! It ends with Jesus! God kept his all-nations-of-the-world-would-be-blest promise. He sent Jesus to be born on Christmas here on earth so that his Son could do all the things needed to save the world from sin, death and the devil.
4. All God’s promises kept in Jesus
When Jesus came, he fulfilled all the promises of God from beginning to end. In fact, there is a Bible verse that says just that: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
We can always trust in God, because he will never let us down. He kept ALL His promises when He sent Jesus. We celebrate Jesus’ birthday every year, because we have faith in him and we love him!
Often when we get to this time of the year we tend to think about… trees – Christmas trees and parties and presents and food and family time. We love to see Santa Claus in the mall. We love to take drives to see neighborhood Christmas lights and there is so much more fun stuff to do. It’s good and fun to do all those things with your families.
It is most important to remember that Christmas is really about Jesus’ family tree. It’s about Jesus’ birthday that we are getting ready to celebrate. We don’t trust in Santa to save us. We don’t think those twinkly lights on the Christmas tree will do anything for us except give us a good feeling. We don’t think Christmas cookies or chocolates or your favourite Christmas baking treat will make us live forever, even though they do taste delicious. We can’t put our faith in any of those things, because those things come and go.
5. The great, fantastic, unbelievable thing about Jesus
We put our faith in Jesus, because he never leaves us. He is always with us. He doesn’t go away. God always keeps His promises… because He loves us so very, very much! The most important promise he kept was to save us. That’s the “all-nations-of-the-world-would-be-blest” promise that God made first of all and a long time ago to Abraham. God blessed us all by coming to earth as a baby, by living a sinless life, by dying on the cross and by rising to life again – to give us new life in Him now, and new life with him forever in heaven!
That is the great, fantastic, unbelievable thing I was talking about before. Jesus died for you. Jesus died for me. He forgave you. He forgave me. We are blessed by God’s love, and by God’s Saviour, Jesus! That’s unbelievable – to think that God would love us so much that, even though we don’t deserve it, even though we do and say bad and sinful things, He would put our picture up on His family tree, proudly. We are all now part of the family of God, baptized, called by Jesus’ name. We are part of the family tree of God – because of Jesus, and we always will be. YAY, JESUS! Amen.