Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

in the midst of all the commercialism surrounding the celebration of jesus' birth, it's easy to forget what we really are celebrating.  in fact, it's all the craziness of this time with nuts schedules that makes slowing down seem impossible.  when do we find the time to rest?  

while sitting in church a couple weeks ago i heard something i've never heard before.  this is always a fun moment for a preacher since we think we've either heard everything or said it ourselves.  tim keller seems to keep saying things i've never heard before and that's great refreshing fun.  

so two weeks ago he was using the "begat" passage of matthew 1 with all the names of the generations leading up to jesus.  the list ends with a breakdown of the numbers of generations.  matthew says there were 14 generations from abraham to king david, 14 generations from david to the babylonian exile, and 14 generations from the exile to christ.  the next verse then describes the birth of jesus.  there's nothing new there, is there?  tim asked the question, "what is this 14, 14, 14 about?"  frankly, i didn't have a clue.  just seemed like information of a historical nature.  but no!  i should have remembered all that special theological training i received at fuller seminary and recalled that matthew never just throws in extraneous information just to be informative!  no no...he is a theological writer!  there is something deeper behind this 14, 14, 14.  

three 14's is also six 7's.  this makes jesus the 7th seven.  along with the divine number, matthew is wanting to remind us of the creation story and the six days of work.  the seventh day was a day of rest.  jesus, as the 7th seven, is the very rest we all crave in this world.  his coming into the world when he did (giving even more weight to the "at just the right time" concept) was to herald "rest" as something, or rather someone, that we could have a relationship with.  

new york amplifies the need, it seems, for rest.  but i know it's not just this place.  we all crave a kind of peace that seems elusive even when we do have the right job, or the right relationship, or the right living situation (the universal trifecta).  augustine said that our souls are restless until we find our rest in jesus.  and if we're honest, we know we have a restlessness that is rarely, if ever, satisfied.  so while you're enjoying gift giving and gift receiving today (and then returning them tomorrow :) and getting tired with it all), remember the "rest" that was born in a manger those many moons ago.  the 7th seven has come.  this is a rest i can relate to. 

merry christmas!


Jeremiah said...

Wow! Very interesting stuff. Oh, how I miss pulling apart scripture with people or in CC classes and discovering those gems!

Seems that restlessness has plagued me for quite some time and the holidays only seemed to amplify it. I am ready to go out into the world and make my own way, yet i am still unsure. Not to mention the consumerism that comes with Christmas -- seems that everyone falls victim to it. Too much focus on the gifts and making sure that everyone has a "good" Christmas (by which they mean getting everything they want).

This Pastor sounds really interesting! I have yet to find a church in Rye that wasn't entrenched in conservative politics and stimulated growth in my faith.

Hope all is well! Merry Christmas!

mark said...

thanks j. i'm more and more impressed with this teacher. get out into the world! do it! come to the'll find everything. if it exists in the world, new york has at least two of them. :)

Becky said...

I think you and Keller do some funny math. Six 7's plus one does not equal seven 7's. Does it?

Also doesn't Mathew actually make a mistake and give a genealogy of 14 + 14 + 13. (There are only 41 names listed in his genealogy including Jesus, not 42 (14x3). oopsie :)

But theological implications aside, I like your recognition of the importance of rest!

mark said...

thanks becky! your observations are entirely correct and i appreciate your critical thinking. i didn't do a good job of expressing myself on the numbers here. i think what tim was saying, and what i picked up on, was the linking of 6 units of time as "work"=the generations leading up to jesus. then he is the 7th unit all by himself which in the creation story was the unit of rest, thus...jesus is rest, etc. "7" being a kind of perfect and divine number for the hebrews, matthew was saying something about jesus in the way he was writing.

as for the 13 generations in the 3rd group of names, you'll get no disagreement from me. in fact, if you look at other genealogies in scripture, it would seem that matthew left a few generations out of the earlier lists (luke 3 lists another 7!). this would indicate that he's trying to say something theological more than historical. that could be sticky for some folks, but i don't think it has to be. there are also textual variants that include a name (johoiakim) between josiah and jeconiah.

those thoughts may not be satisfying. if not, write me at and we can talk more. i'd be delighted. i'm not really sure who or where you are. would love to know.