As Pastor Tim and I were planning out our path of study for The Story at FRC, we quickly came to realize that we would be covering the book of Ruth just two days before Christmas. I can remember the response of some of those we talked to: “What? How can you talk about Ruth when we’ll be in the middle of Advent? That doesn’t make any sense.”
There is some truth to their response; no, it doesn’t make sense to study the book of Ruth when a congregation is so accustomed to hearing the traditional Christmas story. But was does make sense are the overwhelming comparisons between the story of Ruth and the fact that Christ came down to earth as a baby nearly two thousand years ago.
For those who are not all that familiar with the story of Ruth, let me give you a brief recap. An Israelite family finds themselves in Moab for about ten years due to a famine in their homeland. While there, Naomi, the matriarch of the family, witnesses the deaths of her husband and two sons. All that remains in her household are her two Moabite daughters-in-law. For Naomi, life is looking pretty bleak and hopeless.
When Naomi hears that the situation has improved back in her homeland, she and her daughters-in-law make plans to return to Israel. But as they are leaving Moab, Naomi turns to the two women with her and encourages them to stay, telling them that their life and future are no longer with her. Orpah, one of her daughters-in-law returns back to her family as Naomi has asked, but Ruth refuses to leave Naomi’s side.
As Pastor Tim preached on this particular aspect of the passage, he pointed out just how little Ruth’s response actually made sense. She chooses death over life in committing to a future without hope of a husband or family of her own; she is resigning herself to a future of depending on others in her widowhood; she chooses her mother-in-law instead of a husband and children from her own culture; she chooses to become an outsider in a foreign land; she leaves her family.
As Pastor Tim listed off these factors, he made numerous comparisons to the life of Jesus. For those who thought studying the book of Ruth during Advent made no sense— well, here’s where we read of Another’s decisions which also do not make sense:
Jesus is ultimately born to die; Jesus leaves His throne in heaven to have relationship with humans; Jesus chooses to live in a foreign body in a foreign place instead of in a Heavenly dwelling; the Son departs from His heavenly Father to be born as an infant; He sets Himself apart from His earthly family; He comes as a baby instead of a powerful King.
Just as Ruth demonstrates faithfulness to her mother-in-law, God mirrors this same love and faithfulness toward us. Ultimately, the story of Ruth foreshadows the redeeming love of Christ and how He came to earth to redeem each one of us. The actual term “kinsman-redeemer” means to “be set free,” and that’s exactly what Christ did for us when He was born to die for you and me.
The concept of the kinsman-redeemer was an active practice in Israel for many centuries. In order to present oneself as a kinsman-redeemer, a person must be a close relative of the one needing to be redeemed; he must be free to redeem; he must be willing to redeem; and the redemption is completed when the price is paid. The point of the kinsman-redeemer is for a person to be delivered from poverty and despair.
In the book of Ruth, Boaz delivers Ruth and Naomi from a life that seemingly had no hope; in fact, Naomi had already insisted on changing her name to take on an identity of bitterness. But with the birth of the child given to Boaz and Ruth, Naomi is redeemed and her joy is restored.
Last week, I published a rather hard-hitting post about choosing Christ and making a commitment to serve Him above all else. Perhaps knowing of Christ’s redeeming love and the role He seeks to play in each one of our lives is a better picture and far more convincing. Perhaps last week’s post was not the way to present the Gospel. I will let the story of Ruth speak for itself, and perhaps you can find the true meaning of Christmas wrapped up in the far-from-simple Old Testament story. Christmas may have passed on the calendar for this year, but its still Christmas in my heart. I am so grateful that Christ is a part of my Christmas and that He has redeemed me and continues to do so day after day.