Sermon for November 27, 2022 First of Advent “The Gift of Tamar”
I am thankful for the writing of Joanna Harader in her book “Expecting Emmanuel, Eight Women who prepared the Way” The story of Tamar is found in Genesis 38.
Tamar is the first woman named in the genealogy of Jesus. Her story is filled with silence, terror, drama and complication. We may not always like the stories of the older testament as our context is very different. It is challenging to read and not pass judgement on behavior but that does mean we discard the teachings, rather we learn the vital lessons and are surprised with the resilience and grace of the women named if Jesus genealogy.
Tamar is caught a situation over which she has no control, that is the belief that the eldest son should have an heir. Er was the eldest and died, Oman was next and he died and the youngest was not old enough so Tamar’s life became complicated and messy.
We are not unfamiliar with the challenges of the holiday season. We sing of hope, peace, joy and love and yet family and friend roles often leave us exhausted and unsure. What looks normal and postcard perfect to one is a tidal wave of emotion to another and what looks stressful to one is actually peaceful to another.
For Tamar after the death of Oman she is left in a restless season of waiting. She has status and yet she has none, she is part of the house of Judah and yet no legitimate way to belong. In a wise and well prepared plan, though it could also be perceived as devious, Tamar dresses the part of a prostitute, Judah finds her attractive and payment is a signet, cord and staff. Not only that but Tamar is now pregnant. The only thing that gives her legitimacy.
Advent is a time of waiting. We wait for all sorts of things at the various stages of our lives. But there are times when waiting can lead to being stuck. Such was the case for Tamar, she was stuck, stuck in waiting, stuck at wanting someone else to act. So in her powerlessness she acted in the only way she could think of, with the resources at her disposal and got herself unstuck.
In our time of waiting can we see places where we are stuck? From fear, lack of resources, comfortable passiveness or from another’s inaction. Waiting can also be a time to discern that we are in fact stuck and provides opportunity to seek the strength and wisdom of God to take the necessary steps to get unstuck.
What is curious is that the very person who slept with her then wanted to put her to death. But Tamar refused to accept that shame, she refused to be labeled by the man and men who held high ideals for others and behaved however they pleased. Tamar sends the signet, cord and staff to Judah, a real and visible sign that he is in the wrong…and then waits. I can only imagine what that waiting must felt like, how the minutes felt like days. She is waiting to hear if the man who slept with her will burn her at the stake and let her die in this fashion.
We cannot control all the things that happen in our lives. There are times, perhaps many times that the best we can do is wait and pray. For Tamar her actions are vindicated, Judah acknowledges the shame is his and not hers, that his actions toward Tamar have not been kind or just. She does live, she does marry Shelah and she does bear twin sons.
In this Advent week of hope, it is my hope and prayer that we in our day can find the courage to treat all people, especially women with kindness and justice. That the male dominated powers in our armed services, hockey, corporate world and religious world can end violence against women and the subsequent violence of cover-up or pay off.
Tamar’s gift is one of voice, or determination and awareness of her personal power in exposing injustice. It is a gift that we can embrace, as we hope and wait in our day, as we wait for the one to be born that will be named prince of peace.