Imagine that we had a chance to hear the old tax collector-turned apostle Matthew tell his story.
As we knocked on the door, we would have waited as the old man moved his fragile body to the door. We would have been warmly received, as Matthew was well known for giving the best parties back in the day.
As we entered the house, we would have noticed the pictures hanging in the entryway. These pictures honored the ancestors who had paved the way for God’s mission to the world. Among the pictures were those of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David, Solomon, Zerubbabel, and lesser-known personalities, like Akim, Matthan, and finally a Joseph.
The few women among the pictures were somehow out-of-place: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and then one picture simply read: “Formerly Uriah’s wife.” Next to the picture of Joseph was that of very young woman named “Mary.” Had we the courage to ask Matthew about this very small but odd collection of women, Matthew might have reminded us that in God’s story there is always room for the outsider.
Once we finally entered Matthew’s living room and after he stoked the fire to make sure we were all comfortable, he would begin his tale. Unexpectedly, we would be jarred by the Christmas story beginning in a bit of a scandal. Joseph actually wanted to divorce Mary because she was pregnant—maybe the women in the collection have more in common than previously thought.
Matthew would regale us with the story of the “magi,” stargazers from a far away land who came to worship Jesus. Again Matthew reminds us, there is always room for outsiders. Against the backdrop of this story, Matthew would tell us about Herod’s deceitful plan to “worship” Jesus and how Herod’s envy set in motion the incident in Bethlehem.
Matthew himself is visibly shaken as he recalls the events the day Herod sent troops to exterminate the baby boys of Bethlehem to ensure there would be no contenders for his throne, not now, not ever. Not exactly what one expects to hear as part of the Christmas story.
Now we are visibly shaken—not understanding why God would let this happen and why God did not intervene. Matthew responds to our uneasiness. “Don’t you see God entered our world just as it is.”
* If you found this take on Matthew’s version of the nativity intriguing, you might enjoy this: http://www.wineskins.org/filter.asp?SID=2&co_key=1962.