Notice I said seemingly. Ruth's story doesn't end in the book of Ruth. Ruth's son had a son, who had a son whose name was David, who became king over all Israel. David had a son, who had a son, and so on and so on, until we find ourselves back in Bethlehem in a stable, looking into a manger. Yes, as many of you know, Ruth is in the messianic line of Jesus. A Moabite. A hopeless woman who found hope through a kinsman redeemer. And this baby in the manger also brings great hope.
You see, because of our sin, our relationship with God is dead. As dead as Ruth's husband. Sin has eternally separated us from God. It has left us not only hopeless, but helpless. We can't bridge that gap. Like Ruth, there is no way to improve our standing. Just as she needed a kinsman redeemer, we need a Kinsman Redeemer and God's law provides for it.
I have often looked at the manger and thought, Why this? Why a baby? Why become human? Couldn't the wrath of God have been poured out on Jesus up in the throne room of heaven and He could have just gotten it over with up there? Why suffer the humiliation and frustration of 33 years here on earth?
What I didn't understand is the Kinsman Redeemer's requirements. In order for Jesus to be our Redeemer, He had to be related, He had to be able and He had to be willing. Then and only then, would He qualify.
So He put on flesh. While still 100% God, He became 100% man. Trust me, I don't get it, but I believe it. He walked. He talked. He got hungry. He cried. He slept. He lived. He became human so that He was related.
Then He lived a perfect life. Though tempted in all ways, He never succumbed to the temptation. In His short 33 years, He made good decisions, spoke with kindness, was angered but didn't sin, humbled Himself over and over again - all because I failed miserably at all those things. His perfection was then exchanged for my imperfection to establish a pure record to prove He was able to redeem.
Then comes the hardest part of redemption. Jesus was related and He was able, but would He be willing? The nearest kinsman to Ruth's late husband was related and able to pay, but when it came to the willing part, he walked away. Jesus had the option in eternity to reject the plan to redeem fallen humanity. He could have said, If that's what it costs, then forget about it. But He didn't. His willingness is seen in the fact that before the foundations of the world were laid, Jesus chose for Himself a people that He would redeem. (Ephesians 1) The wrestling we see in the garden the night of His arrest is a second proof. Jesus laid aside His anxiety about bearing His Father's wrath and chose to willing lay down His life (John 10:18).
The final proof of His willingness is the cross. There's no arguing what was accomplished there. The Kinsman Redeemer stepped up and proved His humanity by suffering, proved His ability by bearing the wrath of God and proved His willingness by stretching out His arms to be nailed in place. A true redemption - qualified and paid for.
Tomorrow morning Christmas is celebrated around the world. Gifts are exchanged, meals are shared, laughter and family and music and memories will fill many homes. Let us agree not to forget the central character of the Christmas story: a baby.
A baby who brought hope at His arrival.
A baby who began the process to qualify Himself as our Redeemer in a manger.
May we never look at the manger again the same way.
Merry Christmas - you are loved.