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Jesus Had Weird Relatives, Too

  • Janna Wright Contributing Writer
  • Updated Dec 21, 2016
Jesus Had Weird Relatives, Too

When you think of Christmastime, who do you dread the most? (Not what, but who?) What interesting relatives haunt the periphery of your family tree, rustling the leaves, causing the rest of you to tug the branches down and whistle a bit?

Take comfort. You’re not the only one with a weird Uncle Al or an eccentric Great Aunt Myrtle – you know, the stuff family legend is made of. In fact, you’re actually in better company than you imagine. Jesus had weird relatives too.

I have sometimes wondered how many birthdays, bar mitzvahs, and Passover feasts Jesus spent listening to stories about Cousin Elizabeth and her husband, Priest Zechariah. Their stories were the stuff of legend in the Mary & Joseph family. I can picture the hot, steaming lamb on the table while the cousins elbow each other and burst into giggling fits as they tease Uncle Z. with “Cat got your tongue?” And afterwards when the girls gather in the kitchen to tackle the mountain of dishes, one or two of them might’ve looked at Elizabeth with cheesy grins and a comment like, “Should we plan a shower for son #2 any time soon? You’ve still got a few months before you hit 94!”

Oh, if you’d met Zechariah, you would have been impressed by the figure of a godly man who served as a priest in the temple. But that’s precisely the place where this “weird relative” story began. The year before Jesus was born, Zechariah was tending to business, lighting incense for the Israelites when he got the fright of his life. Gabriel, the angel, suddenly appeared right next to the altar to inform Zechariah that he and his barren wife would have a son. And this son would be a special child – the one chosen to prepare Israel’s heart for the Messiah.

Poor Zechariah. He hadn’t asked for any of this, and you and I can easily understand his disbelief at the angelic appearance and announcement. No one was more aware of his old age (and his wife’s) than the man himself! But the angel assured him he’d heard right, and to prove it God touched Zechariah’s tongue so that he could not utter a word.  Yup, nine long months of utter silence. (Talk about some interesting family gatherings.)

Then there was Cousin Elizabeth – the other half of this unique saga. Picture your wrinkled, old grandma with her walker. Now add a pregnant tummy behind that walker, and you’ve got the makings of a family legend. (Okay, maybe they didn’t have metal walkers in Bible times, but you get the point.) God had an intricate plan surrounding His Son’s birth, and it included these two aged relatives and a boy who would grow up eating bugs and preferring goat skin clothing to lamb’s wool. Folks, Jesus had some weird relatives!

I imagine Zechariah and Elizabeth had to put up with plenty of guff from the family. There was probably plenty of head shaking and tsk-tsking their direction. I bet there was even a relative or three who didn’t like what was going on – and told them so. And even on the off-chance the rest of the family was excited about what God was doing, there would still be the dilemma of how to break the news to the neighbors, and the people from synagogue, and . . . . 

But as far as the Bible tells us Zechariah and Elizabeth just kept living by faith regardless of what anyone else thought. They simply clung to the assurances they’d been given from God and lived out their wacky, wonderful stories. (You can read more of their story in Luke 1.)

You probably don’t have any angelic pronouncements or aged expectant grandmas in your family tree, but family is family after all, and yours may not be so very different from Zechariah and Elizabeth’s. So, how about you and your relatives? What kind of drama or relational angst will you face this Christmas season? Perhaps some parental expectations? Snide, under-the-breath comments about the number of your offspring (or lack thereof)? A diatribe over your politics? Running commentary on your educational or vocational choices?

Part of the pressure we feel at holiday time is because we care what our family thinks of us. It’s only natural! But maybe it’s time for a subtle shift. Maybe Christmas 2016 is a time to let go of the expectations that surround us from family. Maybe this Christmas is not only a good time, but the best time, to remember that regardless of what he thinks or she says, we are already accepted and approved by God. That He is the one writing our stories. That it’s okay to care what He thinks most.

So here’s some hope for your holiday stint with relatives – the wacky & weird ones, the angelic ones, and all the ones in between . . . your family doesn’t have to “get” you. They may never understand you or fully comprehend why you do what you do. And that’s okay. Because the One whose opinion counts more than Aunt Bertha or Uncle Wally wishes you the best Christmas yet and has His fingerprints all over your very own wacky, wonderful life story.

Janna Wright told her first story—something about kittens and lost mittens—at age two. As an author and speaker she still loves sharing stories, especially through her “biz-nistry,” Grace Thread, and her recent book, Grace Changes Everything. Janna adores deep talks, the Colorado mountain air outside her back door, and most of all, helping women of faith thrive in their God-given adventure stories.

Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Publication date: December 19, 2016