The Fathers of Christmas

Leadership is broken because leaders are unbroken

Names.  Ancient names.  Foreign names.  Strange names.  Lists of names.  Genealogies.  The Bible is full of them.  You’d think that God would have something better to do than give us weird lists of difficult names in His eternal word.

Matthew’s genealogy found on the first page of the first book of the New Testament. What could be less relevant than a list of often foreign names?  Why would God start the record of the good news of eternal life in such a dull way?

It may surprise you to discover that there could be no way more relevant way to start the story of Jesus and not just to show the legitimacy of His ancestral credentials.

Who is on this list of Christmas fathers?  Founders of nations, leaders of others, successful businessmen, servants of God, heroes of the faith?  Yes.   But these same heroes of the faith were liars, deceivers, adulterers, and idolaters.  What a rouge’s gallery of grace.

Look at Abraham, the man who said to his wife, “Your looks for my life,” and told Pharaoh she was his sister, which was a half-truth, but a whole lie.  She was his half-sister, but she was also his wife, so his claim was a whole lie. Pharaoh was quite unhappy with Abraham and had him escorted from Egypt as a persona non grata.  Yet this man of the half-truth and the whole lie became a father of Christmas.

Then there’s the heel grabbing limper, Jacob, who entered life holding onto the heel of his twin brother, Esau, as if trying to beat him at being the first-born.  He was a born usurper who lied, cheated, and deceived his way through life until God wrestled with him and touched his hip so his fast feel could no longer support his clever mind.  From then on he could not outrun those he misled, so he had to change his ways.  Yet this cheating deceiver became a father of Christmas.

Of course there’s David, the Man (“You’re the Man!" said Nathan the prophet), the roof top observer who watched an enticing woman bathe when he should have been leading his troops in war and ended up trying to hide his shame.  He even went to the extreme of having Bathsheba’s husband placed at the front of the battle lines, a certain death sentence.  David paid for this grievous sin for the rest of his life and his descendants for generations beyond that.  Yet this immoral murderer became a father of Christmas.

Now David had a son named Solomon, an exceptional man, who served God except that he sacrificed to idols.  He started his leadership as the wisest man on earth until he became a power grabbing idolatrous man who died a would be murderous man.  Amazingly, Solomon is also a father of Christmas.

Finally we meet a righteous man, Joseph, who was willing to trust God, go against conventional wisdom, and not send his pregnant fiancé, Mary, away.  He should be a father of Christmas.  Yet Joseph needed what all the other fathers of Christmas needed, the Christ of Christmas, who brings hope for liars, forgiveness for immoral manipulators, deliverance for power seekers, and grace for the righteous.

You see, the genealogy that starts Matthew is most relevant to all of us because the fathers of Christmas show us our need for the same grace they needed.  Surely we are privileged to join the fathers of Christmas in the rogue’s gallery of grace.

From "The Fathers of Christmas" on

Bill Lawrence is the President of Leader Formation International, Senior Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Ministries and Adjunct Professor of DMin Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary where he served full-time for twenty-four years (1981-2005). During this time he also was the Executive Director of the Center for Christian Leadership for twelve years.