Advent is a time of looking forward to the birth of Christ, both in a manger and in his second coming. It is a season of anticipation, of hope, and of joy. We wear the colors of blue in Advent to embrace these themes. Unlike the purple in Lent, blue reminds us that this is a time of preparation and looking forward in hope rather than penitence.
Christmas comes with much rejoicing and festive songs of praise. Hearing my first Christmas carol of the season, ‘What Child is this?’ over the intercom in a store made me stop in my tracks a few weeks ago. And Godly Play trained, I began to wonder, ‘How did this religious song gain access into this secular setting!?’ And then as I pushed the shopping cart, I leaned into the mere pleasure of listening to the familiar tune and the words that speak meaning and life into my soul.
‘What Child is this that laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Angels greet with anthems sweet and while shepherds watch are keeping. This, this is Christ the King.’
Jesus’ kingship has a wonderful and yet at times, perplexing and shocking heritage and lineage. In the Gospel of Matthew, the ancestral lineup reminds me of the Disney movie Mulan. If their ghosts could speak, I wonder what they would say about this child, this offspring of the Jesse Tree that would come in the future? Or to the parents, a young couple who had all the hopes and dreams of a happy life ahead? Then life interrupted happens because of their righteousness. They have work to do for God at a time of the brutal Roman occupation.
Would Jesus’ ancestors speak of their hardship or their faithfulness? What would Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Rachel, and Leah say? Would the Red Tent door open wide to tell of all the secrets of the past to set things right once and for all? What really happened in their stories that have been told again and again throughout the liturgical year from the pulpit, paper print, and cyber world round.
I believe there is one in the lineage who needs reclaiming; a married woman. If her voice could be more amplified in scripture, I think she would have plenty to say on Christmas Eve and the need for a Savior. Especially in her young adult life so many years ago.
‘Jesse fathered David the king. David fathered Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.’
—Matthew 1:6. (emphasis by the author)
In the New Testament, she isn’t even mentioned by name; as if the writer really didn’t know what to do with her! As if it is too shameful and embarrassing to document her. Bathsheba, to her credit, was bathing at night. And the prophet Nathan in his convicting story to David regarding the adultery, describes her as, ‘one kivsah ketanah (little ewe [female]’ Orthodox Jewish Bible). In Nathan’s story, the relationship between Uriah and Bathsheba is that of tenderness.
Bathsheba becomes a widower by David’s cunning intellect. She will also carry a baby for nine months, give birth, and shortly afterward experience this child’s death. In the text, the boy is not even named. David has had other wives and other sons. For Bathsheba, her deep grief can easily be missed. It is only at the end of David’s life; do we hear her voice again. Nathan the Prophet, seer, and ‘see-er’ of all court life, tells her ‘It is best that you speak to David about his promise to you that your son will be on the throne.’ Had Bathsheba been a dishonest woman, she would not have been helped by Nathan the prophet. Her circumstance was such: she was a beautiful married woman who was summoned by King David into his chamber. Who was there to save her? Personal space and advocacy are developing terms.
Reclaiming Bathsheba’s name is one of the many things that Jesus came to do. In my church, we use the Jesse Tree as a teaching tool in Christian Education during Advent. There are small little symbols that are created as ornaments to decorate the branch, the shoot of the stump of a tree. Bathsheba’s name is in the Jesse Tree as the mother of Solomon, the wife of David by murder of Uriah. This royal heritage is ours, the Jesse Tree and all of us who are followers of Jesus in a spiritual sense. Because we, like them, are helpless, broken and in need of a Savior Jesus. Christ the King.