Today I continue in my exploration of the interesting women mentioned in Jesus’ ancestry. Matthew 1:4-5 leads me to Rahab, wife of Salmon, mother of Boaz, great-great-grandmother of King David. Her story is told in Joshua 2 and 6. The story, however, isn’t about a pious Hebrew woman, but about a Canaanite prostitute, and resident of Jericho when Joshua famously led the march which toppled the walls. She didn’t just pretend to be a prostitute as Tamar; she was a legitimate, well-known prostitute in a pagan city. And Jesus is proud to call her an ancestor. WHAT???!!!

This is actually not the first time I have written about Rahab, for she is mentioned again in James, and in a similar ping-back to the Old Testament, I took a look at her life as an example of faith.

As I reflect on what she means in the Christmas story, and why God is proud to mention her as an ancestor of his Son, what I see is an extraordinary symbol of hope. No matter who you are, no matter what you have done, how many decisions you are proud of, or how many things you regret, there is room for you to come to the manger and meet Jesus this Christmas. She was “grafted in” to the line of Christ because she was willing to take a stand with God’s people, and risk her own life to protect those who followed the promise of God. Perhaps she had no faith at the time. Perhaps she was just a shrewd woman who knew how to read the signs of the times. As her people sat in fear of the Israelites, she did more than fear. She took action. But after she was rescued from her crumbling and ruined city, she didn’t continue in an unhealthy lifestyle of prostitution. Instead, she settled down and married a nice Jewish boy… in what eventually became the royal line.

Why was she a prostitute? We don’t know. Maybe she chose it with her eyes open. Maybe it was the only way she could see to save her family from poverty. Maybe she was forced into it. The circumstances don’t matter. It is the redemption that matters. Redemption is always what matters!!

Jesus, as I look to you today, thank you for this reminder that everyone is welcome to be where you are. Just as you were not ashamed of this ancestor, so you were not ashamed of the broken women you encountered in your ministry in Israel. You always show love and compassion.

Help me today, Lord, to treat everyone with your compassion, regardless of their current circumstance, or how they got there. I don’t know why the homeless are homeless. I don’t know why the single mothers are single, or why the ones who seem to have it all together are actually hurting so much inside. I don’t know why some people can’t seem to hold a job – or even a conversation – without making grave social faux pas. I do know that people are broken, and we need a savior. We don’t want to be broken… we just don’t know how to fix ourselves. You gave Rahab a second chance, and as far as we can tell, she lived a healthier life as part of your people than she did apart from your people. You, God, have always been the answer. I don’t have the answer. I don’t know all the information, and I don’t get to judge. But I do have the opportunity, if I will embrace it, to extend love and compassion. Help me be that voice, and that embrace, and lead people to you this Christmas. Amen.