For the past seven years, I’ve a special post at Christmas which I’d named Reading the Season, just to help me dwell on the Reason behind all the festivities. Some past authors I’d read include Marilynne Robinson, C. S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, Luci Shaw. This year I’m going back to the source material, The Bible, for my Christmas read. And no, my selection isn’t from Luke 2, which Linus so eloquently delivers every year in the delightful A Charlie Brown Christmas.
I reread the little love story in The Book of Ruth, one of the earliest parallels pointing to the Christmas story. This time I found it particularly relevant. So here it goes…
A long time ago in a land far, far away a man named Elimelech and his wife Naomi, together with their two sons Mahlon and Chilion, had to pack up and leave their hometown of Bethlehem in Judah to escape from a famine in the land. As migrants, they travelled to a foreign country called Moab.
Alas, Elimelech died soon after and left behind Naomi and their two sons. Years passed, the sons married two Moabite gals, Orpah and Ruth. Could it be the food there, for not long after Naomi’s two sons also died. Bitter and despondent, Naomi sent her two daughters-in-law back to their own family and began her lone journey to return to Bethlehem.
But Ruth was adamant to follow Naomi back to where she came from with this moving vow:
Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
Touched by her loyalty, Naomi let Ruth travel with her back to Bethlehem. She was like a migrant all over again. To the people there Naomi, if anyone still recognized her, was now widowed, sonless, bitter and destitute. The two women didn’t even have a refugee camp to take shelter.
To survive, Ruth went out to the fields to glean the grains left by the harvesters. It happened that they were in the fields of a kind landowner Boaz, who after noticing Ruth and hearing of her love for her mother-in-law, told his workers to leave more grains in the fields for her to glean. Yes, it just happened that she’d come to the right field.
When Naomi learned of Boaz, she saw a glimpse of hope. Definitely this was more than the food bank; this generous landowner actually was a relative belonging to her late husband’s clan. Out of desperation, she sent Ruth on a risky mission: to go to Boaz at night and approach him tactfully, letting him know of their ties in kinship.
Lo and behold, Boaz, an honourable and compassionate man, was harbouring a deep and ardent love for Ruth. That night, though surprised to see Ruth, he received her readily and with respect, restraining and keeping his torrid passion well under wraps, umm like… Mr. Darcy.
According to the law of the land, the closest relative had the first right to redeem the lands that Naomi’s late husband Elimelech had sold and to marry Ruth to carry on the family line. But lo, Boaz wasn’t that person; instead, he did the honourable thing, extending the first right of redemption to the closest relative, yes, like umm… Mr. Collins.
And it happened that Mr. Collins was willing to buy back the land but wait a minute, he couldn’t take Ruth as a wife. There could be reverberations, for Ruth was a foreigner, a Moabite. Further, the land was for her to continue with Naomi’s family ownership, and would not be under his name. “I pass,” he said in the sight of ten elder witnesses. Phew!
So only then did Boaz declare not only his willingness to redeem the land once owned by Elimelech, but also his desire to take Ruth as his wife to save her from destitute, poverty, and childlessness. How marvellous it was that Boaz, a legit kinsman redeemer according to the laws, was also truly, madly, and deeply in love with his redeemed.
And we are definitely indebted to the two lovers for producing the line of descendants, for Ruth later became the great grandmother of David, from whose ancestral line generations later came Jesus.
With this beautiful ending I come back to Christmas 2015, and ponder on the lowly birth of Christ at the manger, to become our Kinsman for the ultimate purpose as Redeemer.
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us… full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14
The Risk of Birth
This is no time for a child to be born,
With the earth betrayed by war & hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out & the sun burns late.
That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome;
Honour & truth were trampled by scorn–
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.
When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on the planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn–
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.
– Madeleine L’Engle
Previous ‘Reading The Season’ Posts:
2014: Lila by Marilynne Robinson
2013: Poetry by Madeleine L’Engle
2012: Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis
2011: Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle
2010: A Widening Light, Luci Shaw
2008: The Bible and the New York Times by Fleming Rutledge
16 thoughts on “Reading the Season: The Book of Ruth”
Thanks Ellen. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Thank you for this. I love Ruth’s story — and I adore your Darcy/Collins comparisons! I may never see Boaz the same again… 😉
Ha! if that can help you appreciate Boaz more, so much the better. 🙂
Lovely story well told. Merry Christmas,and may the New Year be kind to you.
Thanks for stopping by and Merry Christmas and a bright New Year to you too!
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A lovely Christmas read, Arti. I read this beautiful story recently, against the dismal chaotic wretched backdrop of life during the Judges. And here was a faithful (Moabitess!) woman like a breath of fresh air right from heaven.
I’m afraid chaos still marks our days and evil still prowls like a roaring lion… In times like these, all the more we need a Kinsman Redeemer. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Beautiful, Arti! Merry Christmas.
The same to you, JoAnn, and a wonderful New Year to you and your family!
I think they need a new edition of the Bible — not the King James or whatever is hot right now. They need the Ripples Version where the stories are told in a wonderful, entertaining way that relates to life as we know it, yet capture the genuine meaning and true beauty of the original stories. I would read it. Cover to cover.
This is indeed a lovely story — not just for this holiday season but for any season, any time and any place. A story of genuine love and selflessness. So many parallels — you are right. It is perfect.
(And I’m serious about the rewrite.)
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You’re too too kind. I wouldn’t dare to write another version of the Bible, but just loosening up my imagination a little, if the story is to be adapted into screenplay, maybe it will be something like this. And you’re right, it’s a story for all seasons.
I liked the Book of Ruth. It was so gentle and thoughtful. Sometimes I used to think of the way the Bible was compiled and what must have been the masculine bias in the process, and I would think, I wonder what a female slanted Old Testament would have looked like.
I think it’s more a reflection of the times and culture than the literary style of the writer. And The Book of Ruth is an exception too in that it’s written from the POV of the women, Naomi and Ruth; maybe that’s why you feel it’s gentle and thoughtful. Thanks for stopping by the pond and leaving some ripples. I enjoy your sharing very much. 🙂
A lovely retelling of the story, Arti. Clearly, I’m behind the curve, as people already are rushng to stores to exchange gifts that weren’t “just right.” Me? I’m still unwrapping lovely gifts, and savoring them. Your post is one of those gifts.
Merry Christmas, and best wishes for the New Year!
What a lovely thing to say. Thanks for your gift of gracious words! Have a blessed Christmas Season, Linda.