Finding Awe in the Awful
By Lisa Nuss
It’s December and Christmas is just around the corner! I’ve always loved Christmas – the lights, the smells, the joy and awe on the faces of children. Here’s the thing – joy and awe aren’t just for the kids, or at least they shouldn’t be! However, sometimes it’s easier to see the awful than the awe. Fighting traffic and crazy drivers trying to get the year’s hottest toy for your kids, the first Christmas without someone you love, another holiday fighting with your family around the dinner table. While family can be great, it can also be really hard. And yet we know that Christmas is supposed to be all about the birth of Jesus. How do we reconcile that?
The New Testament opens with the story of the first Christmas. It doesn’t begin with a star, an angel, or a manger. The very first words are a genealogy! Awe-inspiring, right? People you don’t know with names you can’t even pronounce. You know, the part that most people probably skip right over. So, what does a genealogy have to do with Christmas? Why should you care about all of these people that make up the lineage of Joseph, the husband of Mary, who was the mother of Jesus? From a historical standpoint, this genealogy served to show a Jewish audience that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah, coming from the line of Abraham and David. To me, personally, it’s important because it shows that God can and will work through anyone and any circumstance to accomplish His will!
Represented in this genealogy are awe-inspiring stories like God giving a son to Abraham in his old age to fulfill His promise (Matthew 1:2, Genesis 21:1-7), and awful stories like when David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife and had him killed when he found out she was pregnant (Matthew 1:6, 2 Samuel 11). And yet, Abraham had his darker moments too, and David repented and was known as a man after God’s own heart. There are the more well-known names of Abraham, Ruth, and David along with the lesser-known names of Eliakim, Zadok, and Matthan. I find awe in the awful here! There were some awful things that happened to and because of the people in this lineage, and yet God chose this genealogy to be that of his son, Jesus! How awe-inspiring is that?
All of this just goes to show that families are complicated. If even the genealogy of Jesus holds such varied legacies, it should be no surprise that our families can wind up being pretty complicated as well. I don’t know what your family situation is. I don’t know what legacy has been passed down to you through the generations. But I know Jesus and what He offers – grace. Grace can be defined as “God’s favor toward the unworthy” or “God’s benevolence on the undeserving.” No matter what your family has looked like or what the people in it have done in the past, when we become a new creation in Christ, “the old has gone and the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) We have the choice to accept the grace that is freely given to us as a gift from God and change the course of our lives and those of future generations! For me, that is awe-inspiring!
There’s a song by Matthew West called “Family Tree” that speaks to this point. Written as the voice of God speaking to the listener, I love the message in these lyrics:
“Are you gonna be like your father was and his father was?
Do you have to carry what they’ve handed down?
No, this is not your legacy
This is not your destiny
Yesterday does not define you
No, this is not your legacy
This is not your meant to be
I can break the chains that bind you”
Feel free to change “father” to any family member that fits your situation. The song goes on to talk about how He will restore all that is broken because we are loved! God loved each and every person listed in Matthew 1, flaws and all, and He loves each and every one of us. Will you choose to accept His love and grace and look for awe in what might be awful in your life right now? Even if things aren’t awful for you at the moment, I challenge you to find moments where you experience awe this Christmas season! After all, it’s all about the birth of Christ, and what could be more awe-inspiring?
Journal Prompt/Discussion Questions //
When is the last time you felt a moment of awe? What caused it?
How can you choose to experience awe during this season?
How has the grace of God made an impact on your life? How can it make an impact on you and others going forward?
Prayer Focus //
God, I thank you for sending your Son to earth in order that we could be forgiven of our sins. Your grace and mercy are overwhelming! Help me to find ways to experience awe this Christmas season, despite whatever awful circumstances I may be facing. And if I’m in a good place right now, help me to reach out to those who may need to experience Your love and grace. In Jesus’ name, amen.