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  • Writer's pictureMatthew L. Tinkham Jr.

Our Christmas Blessing and King

"The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1, ESV).

This is a special time of year when a good portion of the western world remembers the incarnation of our blessed Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. We call it "Christmas." Most likely, Jesus was not born on December 25 some two thousand years ago. Many scholars think that some date in the fall is a much more accurate estimation for the timing of Jesus' birth. Nevertheless, centuries of church traditions have firmly established December 25 as the date upon which we reflect on and celebrate heaven's most precious gift in the first advent of our Messiah. Since the world today is more open to Jesus and Christianity at this time of year, it only makes sense for the church to join in these Christocentric celebrations. Jesus was conceived miraculously in the virgin Mary by the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:18, 20). He was born to both Mary and her betrothed, Joseph. Joseph is an important person in the narrative of Christ's first appearing. One of the reasons, he is significant is due to his lineage. Joseph stood in the direct line genealogically of David, the former king of Israel, who was a type of the Messiah, and Abraham, the father of God's chosen people, Israel. In fact, to give evidence to his readers that Jesus is truly the Christ about whom the Old Testament prophets prophesied, Matthew began his gospel with a genealogy of Jesus that was traced from his father, Joseph. Joseph's Abrahamic and Davidic biological heritage points to the authenticity of Jesus as the Jewish hope, the Messiah. Matthew summarized the Davidic lineage of Joseph—and therefore of Jesus—in Matt 1:17, ESV: "So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations." The first key figure to whom Jesus is connected genealogically through his father Joseph is Abraham (Matt 1:1), the father of the twelve tribes of Israel through his chosen son Isaac and his chosen grandson Jacob, who fathered the twelve Israelite sons. Matthew pointed out that Jesus was in the Abrahamic line of descendants. Why was this important? Millenia ago, the Lord made a unique covenantal promise to Abraham in Gen 12:1–3, ESV: "Now the LORD said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'" Through Abraham—then called "Abram"—God promised to make a great nation and bless all the families of the earth. Matthew via his recorded genealogy of Jesus announced that the time for the fulfillment of this promise came in the incarnate birth of Jesus. Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, came to fulfill this covenant by providing the blessing of salvation to all the families of the world. His messianic work as the second Adam, the recapitulation of Israel, the Mosaic prophet, the suffering servant on the Roman cross, and the high priest-king of the heavenly sanctuary would make provision for the redemption not only of the Jewish family of Abraham but also of the entire human race. Through his messianic descendant Jesus, Abraham was made a blessing to all the families of the earth by God. The angel of the LORD said to Abraham, "'[A]nd in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice'" (Gen 22:18, ESV). A second important figure that Matthew highlighted in Jesus's lineage from Joseph is David (Matt 1:1), the famous Old Testament king of united Israel. Matthew wanted to be sure that his Jewish readers understood that Jesus was a descendant of David. Why was this fact so significant to establish? Like with Abraham, God made a special covenantal promise to David through the prophet Nathan in 2 Sam 7:12–16, ESV: "'When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever'" (cf. Ps 132:11–12). Now, while this prophecy in its primary context referred to David's son Solomon, who would build the LORD a temple in which his glorious presence could dwell with his people Israel, parts of this promise were not fulfilled by Solomon. For example, Solomon also lay with his fathers in the sleep of death and did not establish the Davidic house, throne, and kingdom forever, as God had promised David. So, there must have been another descendant of David who would bring God's covenant with David to ultimate fulfillment. The prophet Jeremiah later prophesied that this was indeed the case. He said, "'Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: 'The LORD is our righteousness''" (Jer 23:5–6, ESV; cf. Isa 11:1–5). Matthew through his genealogy of Jesus identified him as this "righteous Branch" who came to establish the house, throne, and kingdom of David forever, ruling with justice and righteousness. He was born the incarnate Messiah to save the northern tribes (Israel) and southern tribes of Israel (Judah and Benjamin), as well as the rest of the world. He is the LORD, our righteousness, who came to be our righteousness, imputing (i.e., justification) and imparting (i.e., sanctification) his perfect active and passive righteousness to us by faith. As the angel Gabriel declared to Mary in the Lukan gospel, "'He [i.e., Jesus] will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end'" (Luke 1:32–33, ESV). Jesus Christ, our blessed Messiah, is the greatest gift that has ever been given in the entirety of the κόσμος (i.e., the universe). In him, we find the fulfillment of both the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. Matthew's genealogy of Jesus identified him as our Christmas blessing of the Abrahamic covenant and our Christmas king of the Davidic covenant. As you spend time this holiday season pondering the profound love of God revealed in the incarnation of Jesus, may you claim the covenantal promises that Jesus fulfilled for you by faith. He is your blessing of salvation and your forever-reigning king. Be ravished and enraptured by your redemption in this newborn king. But remember not to keep him to yourself; Jesus is the salvific blessing for all the families of the earth and the king of the only kingdom that will last forever. Make sure you take time to share about the incarnate Christ this holiday season with your children and grandchildren; your other family and loved ones; and your friends, coworkers, and neighbors. Have a very merry Christmas!

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