Ruth is the third woman listed in the genealogy of Jesus. Her story is much longer than the other three and has a whole book in the Old Testament devoted to her. In regards to her connection to the Christmas story, I believe there are at least two important and interwoven themes to know about her story:
1.) Ruth was a racial outsider
The first thing we discover about Ruth is that she was a Moabite. This means not only that she was not Jewish – which jumps out on the genealogy because Jesus was – but that she was in fact from a racial group despised by the Jews.
Why were the Moabites despised by the Jews?
To get the answer to that, we go to another one of the R-rated stories in Genesis. Genesis 18-19 tell us of the judgment of the city of Sodom. Lot and his daughters are one of the only ones to escape, which should mean they are more righteous than most, right? Wrong.
In a scene that fits Jerry Springer better than the Bible, we see Lot’s daughters mourn that all their husband prospects died in Sodom. So they hatch a plan to get dad drunk, to have sex with him, and get pregnant. That is what they successfully did, and guess what name was given to the firstborn from this incestuous pregnancy? Moab – the father of the Moabites.
2.) Ruth was a courageous immigrant
Almost every immigrant story I have heard is courageous. It almost always involves someone taking a great risk to leave a dangerous situation and to try and improve the lot for their family. The book of Ruth is an immigrant story, but it goes to a whole new level of courage.
The book of Ruth opens with an introduction to a Jewish family that had immigrated to Moab to escape a famine in their homeland. Through some type of disaster (we are not given the details) all of the husbands in this family tragically die. This leaves Naomi – the matriarch of the family – in an extremely vulnerable position both economically and socially. Widows were the most vulnerable adults in society, and the older the widow was the more exponentially exposed she was.
Naomi is so depressed that she wishes God would change her named to ‘bitter’ instead of Naomi. Feeling alone and in despair, she plans to head back to her homeland. As she prepares to leave she is stunned by the news of her friend – Ruth was coming with her.
Naomi pleads with Ruth to reconsider. A Moabite immigrant in Jewish territory was a risk too great to take in her opinion. She would certainly be in constant danger. Ruth’s response is one of the more beautiful verses in Scripture: “Your God is my God, and your people are my people. Where you go I will go also.”
What is it that this courageous story of Ruth tells us about Christmas? Though there are so many priceless pearls in her story, I think her place in the bloodline of Jesus reminds us about the inclusivity of Jesus, and of God’s desire that all people would come into the family of God.
Ruth’s place in the family tree of Jesus reminds us that Jesus would not only shed his blood for the whole world –Jesus inherited his blood from the whole world too.
The Christmas story reminds us that the very blood that flowed through baby Jesus’ veins was mixed race blood. Those that the Jews had rejected from their family tree were included in the bloodline of Jesus. Jesus was a Mestizo. He was the mixed-race Savior of the world.