2019 Advent Devotional – Day 2


Matthew 1:2-3 – The ancestors of Jesus, as recorded in the book of Genesis

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram.

Resilience- Walton United Church, Oakville, Ontario

It’s not exactly a riveting start. Your eyes are perhaps already glazing over, your mind wandering, as the names accumulate. It’s easy to ask, “Are we done, yet?” But wait. Because nestled in between the fathers and the brothers is a startling inclusion. Tamar. The mother of Perez and Zerah. Women didn’t belong in biblical genealogies, and yet Matthew has barely written two lines before he is breaking expectations.

Which is fitting in some ways, because Tamar herself had to deal with broken expectations. In a series of events more suited to a soap opera, Tamar’s husband died leaving her childless; then her brother-in-law refused to fulfil his duty to become a surrogate for his dead brother and father a child with Tamar. When he too died, Judah (Tamar’s father-in-law) both blamed and feared Tamar and denied her any of the expected alternatives: to be promised to the third brother; to act himself as surrogate; or to release Tamar to marry again.

Fearing for her future, yet loyal to her family, Tamar demonstrated remarkable levels of resilience. She disguised herself as a prostitute, seduced Judah and conceived. When her pregnancy was discovered, Judah prepared to have Tamar punished according to the law—until he was revealed to be the father and belatedly acknowledged his responsibilities and Tamar’s integrity.

In the life of Tamar, betrayal, deception and fear—perhaps elements of our lives—are confronted by resilience and redeemed by God’s grace. With the inclusion of Tamar in Jesus’ family tree, we can be reassured that God works through our failings and fears, not just our triumphs and talents. And we can be encouraged to persist in the face of troubling times, knowing that God recognizes the worst of humanity and is there by our side throughout. 

* See Genesis 38 for the full account of Tamar

Sustaining God,
You promise to be with me always, loving and caring for me. Thank you for abiding with me—for comforting me in my times of need and strengthening me to face the trials in my life. Encourage me to trust wholly in your promises to me, and establish in me a resilient faith, that I may face my dark times in hope and confidence. Amen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2020.

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