A list of names is uninteresting unless your name is in it; isn’t it? It has therefore always baffled me why God chose to start the good news account of Jesus Christ with a long list of names (refer Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 1, the first chapter in the New Testament).
Several insights came later; of which some that touch the very core of our hearts are being shared here.
Called by Name
The first thought is that names are not uninteresting to God Almighty. In several instances he himself has said, “Fear not. I’ve called you by name. I have chosen you. You are mine.”
When God calls us by name, it simply is not like a teacher taking attendance in class or like a roll-call. When God calls us by name; it means that he has an intimate knowledge about us, knowing us even before we were formed in our mother’s womb, and knowing our potential and areas of failure as well.
It is of great comfort to know that when our identity is being reduced to alpha-numeric codes for variety of purposes in the modern world; God does not see us as impersonal beings or social animals; but individuals made in his likeness and image and having infinite worth in his eyes. This is a great motivation to celebrate Christmas.
The second thought is that, this long list of names remind us that God’s plans are worked out with great patience in our lives. This list of names spans centuries.
The people mentioned in this list had different temperaments and character. Some of them had daring faith; while some others had glaring failures in their lives. Even a prostitute who turned to God in faith finds mention in the list. Overall we find diverse personalities being joined together like linking beads in an ornament of exquisite beauty.
These people were not extraordinary, but common people made great only by their trust in God, love towards him and obedience to his commands. And God used their lives to bring about the birth of his Son to this world.
Therefore the long list of names tell you that God finds you useful; and in spite of most unlikely circumstances in your life, he can fit you perfectly into the working out of his great plans for good.
The Greatest Find
The third and final thought is that the long list of names remind us that we all have roots.
Some of us are conscious about it; some keep records like family albums, portraits or family trees. Some people are blessed with heroic family traditions while many others find it difficult to even trace their parents.
Whatever be your situation, the list of names speak a word of hope. The list of names abruptly end with Jesus Christ. It simply means that your past is taken care of.
Christmas is not about looking back; it is about a new life in Christ Jesus. When he makes an entrance into your life, he makes a future impact. The greatest find in life is him!
The long list of names in your family tree was but God’s means to help you find him. So Christmas is an occasion to remember all influences (like the Star that rose at the first Christmas) and people, who helped you find him.
In this context, isn’t it interesting to note that neither Jesus nor his first disciples ever made any of the places associated with his life, birth, death or resurrection a place of pilgrimage. Why? He is not limited by history; he lives!
Therefore the angel asked those who came searching for Jesus at the tomb: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
Yes, the list of names ends with the name of the Son of God; because when all others in the list are dead and gone; he alone lives! And someday all of them and we too who trusted in him will also live with him; because he lives! This is the great hope that Jesus Christ brought to this world. Amen!