Why the Begats are Important to Preach
The “begats,” found in Matthew 1:1-17, are not the most exciting part of the Bible for most people. In fact, we often skip them in our daily readings and we rarely preach about them. I mean, what is there to say about such a long list of names? How can exciting preaching come from such dry material?
The truth is that the begats offer some of the richest preaching we can offer in Advent because they offer what the church needs today more than ever. They offer us hope: hope that God’s presence and love will survive until the day Christ returns; hope that the church, now facing the greatest challenge of unparalleled decline, will survive; hope that my life and your life make a difference; hope that each of us, with all of our flaws and sinful nature, can be used by God to pass the love of God down to the next generation.
The begats remind us that there was a chain of faithful people from the time of Abraham through the birth of Jesus who did what they could, even though most were flawed and imperfect people, to pass the faith down to us. This is not simply a list of names, but the careful recording of the of the names of people who faithfully have held the chain of faith, and refused to drop it. Because of each of these people lived and passed on their faith, we are here today and as a result, we are now called to be the links in the chain of faith for those to come after us. This sermon series invites us to understand our role as part of the chain of faith that will pass the faith to future generations.
Visual Aid Suggestion: An Actual Chain Used Each Week
I suggest reading this entire passage, Matthew 1:1-17, each week of Advent using a visual aid during the reading. Place a long, strong chain in a barrel, box or basket and as the begats are read each week, slowly pull it out. Then place it in a place where people will see it. This will be a visual way of emphasizing that we are all links of a chain of faith which began with Abraham’s call through the birth of Jesus, through his death and until today. And we are now the links that will pass the faith onto those who are to come.
Once we begin to see each person in the begats as an important link of the chain, the rich preaching can begin! During the series, you will highlight one or two links of the chain each week as you recall our journey with God, which has been a long and faithful one—an unbroken chain.
Whose Life Should You Highlight Each Week?
Possible choices for people to highlight can be any of the people listed in the begats. Remember, as you preach, to tell the entire and often complex story of their lives. Many of them were very faithful but also flawed; some were teens and some were very old; some were women and some were men; and they came from all kinds of economic backgrounds. Sounds like a congregation, doesn’t it? The goal is to tell the stories and allow members of our congregations to see themselves in the stories and begin to ask themselves where they fit into God’s story.
Below I will briefly describe some of the people you might highlight during Advent, but you need to read the begats yourself and find those people who call out to you and who you feel you might best describe and make come alive to inspire your congregation.
Abraham: An old man; a nomad; the laughing stock of his neighbors because he had no child; called and promised to be the father of a nation–an important link in the chain of faith!
Jacob: A momma’s boy; greedy for what is rightfully not his and belongs to his brother; deceives his dying father to gain a blessing; wrestles with God; becomes a hard working man; a good husband and faithful man–an important link in the chain of faith!
Tamar: A widow; considered no good after not having a child for her husband; cast aside because she was a woman; a fighter who found a way to care for her children–an important link in the chain of faith!
Rahab: A prostitute; a non-believer who helps Joshua escape from Jericho–an important link in the chain of faith!
Boaz: A wealthy man who cares for the widow and the widow’s daughter Ruth–an important link in the chain of faith.
Ruth: A widow and a non-believer who takes on the God of her husband and mother-in-law after his death–an important link in the chain of faith!
David: A brave boy; a poet; a musician; a shepherd; a fighter; an adulterer; a murderer; a wise and good King–an important link in the chain of faith!
Zadok: A priest and a loyal servant who refused to follow anyone but his King, King David–an important link in the chain of faith!
Solomon: A rich, perhaps entitled child of a king; a king himself; a builder of great things including the Temple; a wise diplomat; a womanizer; failed to keep the faith by allowing other God’s to be worshipped; sincere in his love of God–an important link in the chain of faith!
Jehoshaphat: A king; a faith-filled man; a politician who did what was right; a good diplomat who appointed judges and strengthened Israel–an important link in the chain of faith!
Zerubbabel: A poor exile, living in a land far from home who returned home to ruins and began to rebuild the temple–an important link in the chain of faith!
Josiah: A child and a king who had never heard of God but recognized holy scrolls and had them read, created a kingdom of followers–an important link in the chain of faith!
Joseph: A man who discovers his betrothed is with child; unsure, scared, faithful–an important link in the chain of faith!
The Climax of the Series: Christmas Eve or Christmas Sunday
The series culminates with the Christmas Sermon. The begats are read again and by this time your congregation will be familiar with many of the names. Review the lives and then remind those gathered that all of these people named in the begats were the ones who passed the faith along, generation after generation, until Christ was born. And Christ asks us now, to be his children, his vine, his chain of faith until he comes again. Christ asks us one question: Do we believe enough to pass the faith along to those yet to come? Will we in our words, actions, prayers and faithfulness witness to others about his birth, life, teachings, death and resurrection? For we, each of us, are an important link in the chain of faith!
Image attribution: bluebearry / Thinkstock