Over the past few years, the summer Montreat Youth Conferences have inspired me in a multitude of ways. Escaping to the mountains of North Carolina provides an environment to help young people grow closer to God, to their church family, to meet new friends, and to reconnect with old friends. Every year, as I hear stories from my peers about their home life, I am reminded how truly blessed I am to have grown up in my family.
The theme for the 2016 Montreat Youth Conference was World of Difference. Every day focused on a different way that we as youth could make a difference. The second day really hit home for me as we focused on being “the difference in your family”.
Family is larger than the people who share the same household or share the same bloodline. Family are the people who love and support you through both the easy and difficult times in your life. In my life, I have a group of school friends that are like family; I have a group of families that I consider my neighborhood family; I have my actual family that shares the same lineage as me; and I have all of my church family.
Families have an enormous amount of impact on our lives. Even though at times family can be our source of struggle, they still influence us to live our lives differently. God calls us to be the difference in our families because just like your family members shape you, you also shape your family members.
The scripture for the second day of the youth conference was a text we usually hear at Advent, preparing for Jesus. Our Keynote speaker, Rodger Nishioka kept all 1200 youth and adults entertained through the whole reading of Matthew 1:1-17, the Genealogy of Jesus, which stretches all the way from Abraham down to Jesus. I don’t know how he kept us excited through this text, but everyone in Anderson Auditorium was shouting and cheering for the different names mentioned. If you aren’t familiar with all the names, read through the scripture and imagine 1200 voices shouting yes and clapping for Abijah and Asaph, for Azor and Zadok, or Eliud and Eleazar.
Jesus’s lineage is full of familiar and unfamiliar names. And if we take a close look at the names, it becomes clear that Jesus did not descend from a perfect family. His family was full of good guys like Isaac, deceivers like Jacob, kings, prostitutes, leaders, wise or weak, famous and infamous, evil and power seeking, and a carpenter who marries Mary who gives birth to Jesus. I believe Matthew starts out the New Testament with Jesus’s genealogy because it is important to know the many relations he has in his family lineage. It is a reminder that no one has the perfect family, even the Messiah.
However, Jesus was still able to make a difference and change the world. God calls us to be the difference in our family not for ourselves but for the glory of God. Jesus inspires us to bring healing and hope into a world with hurt and despair, and to show everyone they belong, because they belong to God.
As we move through this Advent season, how does the imperfect family lineage of Jesus encourage us and support us to be the difference in our families, our neighbors, our communities, and our world?
Kaylee Osteen is a freshman at Clemson University, and a member of Eastminster Presbyterian in Simpsonville, SC. Her article is excerpted from a reflection she shared with her congregation.