This evening, I was trying to figure out a way to acknowledge and celebrate the 120th birthday of our Grandmother Lettie Toussaint, my father’s mother, who was born on Aug. 27, 1894 and passed away on March 23, 1985. After all, she was huge into genealogies and spent countless hours documenting the births, deaths, marriages and offspring of family members many generations in the past. In fact, several years ago, I was contacted by another family member who has taken over the chore of recording the generations since Grandma died, but as you undoubtedly know, it gets more complicated with every generation. It’s a daunting task…
In the case of Grandma – well, for staters, her maiden name was Lettie Nichols and she married Jacob Toussaint, my father’s father. They had three children – all boys – Vernon, the eldest, who married Alice and had Yvonne, Vernon, Jr., Ronald and Sandra. Then there was Wayne, who married Francis Cooper and they had two daughters, my cousins Lynn (Jacqueline to my grandmother) and Laurel. Then came Bruce – my father – who married Louise LaRue and in addition to me, had my brothers Doug and Ken. Of course, I could go on and on with the succeeding generations, but you get the idea. One person touches a number of other lives. In my case, even my first post for TBTB was a result of a NT Bible that Grandma gave me on my tenth birthday.
Now the title of this post is technically incorrect from a biblical point of view. The word “begat” meant “of the seed of” or “in the lineage of” and the genealogies always followed the male descendants. That would mean that I should have titled this, “And Jacob Begat” but this isn’t about my grandfather – it’s about all the lives that Grandma touched. In all seriousness, my brothers and I didn’t know her nearly as well as our cousins, who grew up very close to Grandma but she had a huge influence on us nonetheless.
I remember all the stories she read to us as children and how we would rotate Christmases at Grandma’s home every third year. And when I got older and really into gardening, Grandma would come and spend the night with Janet and me when we were first married – we would make bread and butter pickles and Grandma taught me quite a bit about canning in general. Grandpa always had a really large garden and I guess a little of that rubbed off on me. I loved the outdoors and enjoyed my time in the kitchen as well. Lately, in fact, I have had the inclination to get back into it, but we’ll see as my corporate workload decreases.
The Jewish people of God considered genealogies among the most important things they could be involved in. Family history and honoring the past generations were requisite in the Jewish culture. In fact, Matthew, the first book of the New Testament, written to Jews, starts with a genealogy as a recognition of the importance of history. There is also a genealogy in the first several chapters of Luke, and both of them point to the human lineage of Jesus – one from the family of Joseph and one from the family of Mary. The Jews were very particular about their ancestry and it is not uncommon for Jewish people today to be able to trace their heritage all the way back to the twelve tribes of Israel.
The point of all this is that our ancestors provide an undeniable link to the past – and we are the links to the future. Whatever generation you are in – there are people before you and presumably people who will follow you. And it usually pays huge dividends to share the story of our ancestors with our children and grandchildren. The verse for tonight highlights the importance of genealogies – it is the opening verse of the book of Matthew. We are told, in Matthew 1:1,16, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham…… and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” Notice that many intervening generations are mentioned completing the links from Abraham all the way to Jesus Himself.
My encouragement this evening is that you are part of a long line of people who have made choices and decisions throughout their lives who have, at least in part, determined who and what you are today. They have influenced your behavior, your mannerisms and even, to some extent, your value system and the way you think. My prayer is that you will be grateful for all the mentors in your life – whether they be family or not. Because when you impact people and touch lives the way Grandma did, you will be remembered 120 years after the date of your birth as well… Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…