Where We All Begin

Where We All Begin

by Nick Kersten, Librarian-historian


       “In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past and bridge to our future.” –Alex Haley

       “This is the written account of Adam’s family line.” (Genesis 5:1 NIV)

       “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of Abraham, the son of David.” (Matthew 1:1 NIV)


When I was 17 years old, I decided to sit down and attempt to write my autobiography. The logic behind this curious decision seemed sound: I wanted to write down the important events of my first 17 years before I forgot them.

As I tried to write about myself, however, I discovered a rather troublesome problem. I couldn’t say anything about where I came from without describing my family. In an attempt to scale back my project from detailing all the history requisite for my existence, I decided to start talking about my parents. Unfortunately, I wasn’t skilled or disciplined enough in my writing to avoid talking about my grandparents, since I knew that some of their influence passed down through my parents to me.

I couldn’t escape from telling the story of my family before I tried to make sense of my own story.

I suspect that this truth I stumbled across in my teenage years is true of all of us, no matter the specifics of our family background. All of us are indebted to the people who gave birth to us and raised us in very important ways. This may be why the Bible itself takes such pains to record the stories of where everyone comes from.

The book of origins, Genesis, takes its name from the same Greek word from which we get the word genealogy. That book itself contains ten accounts which describe the growth of the families of humanity, from Adam to Jacob.

At the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is introduced by way of a genealogy. It appears because of God’s promises to the patriarchs and the subsequent generations of God’s people. Where Jesus came from, family-wise, makes a difference in how we are to understand him.

No matter our family backgrounds, our own stories are tied up in where we come from, and, more important, WHO we come from. As believers in Jesus, all of us are children of God, adopted because of the gift of the only begotten Son. And in our covenant communities, we are families of faith, no matter who our earthly parents are.

This profound mystery is part of what we celebrate when we remember the birth of Jesus to a virgin. The obvious questions of Jesus’ parentage are part of the core of what we celebrate as believers—that through Christ we also can be called “Children of God” (1 John 3:1).

This season, as you consider what the Lord has done for us, remember not only your story, but the story of the generations which have come before you. Your story is given meaning, at least in part, by theirs. Ultimately, all of our stories find their source in the God who gives life, and then when we fail, saves us with His own blood.

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