DECEMBER 4, 2023

“Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life…” (Ruth 4:14–15, ESV)

How Ruth Saved Christmas

If we think that the Christmas story started with Jesus’s birth, well, we aren’t reading the Bible closely enough! The roots of Christmas are deep in the Old Testament. Let me tell you just how Ruth saved Christmas.

During a famine, an Israelite family moved to Moab, and their two sons married Moabite women. Eventually, the men died, leaving the women in desperate straits. Naomi, the matriarch, urged her daughters-in-law to return to their birth families. One of them, a courageous and faithful woman named Ruth, refused to leave: “Your God will be my God,” Ruth said (Ruth 1:16). Despite her bold choice, the prospects for these two women were meager. But this is a Christmas story, complete with a happy ending. Three details reveal why that is so.

First, Christmas stories have stunning reversals. The King of kings arrived in very humble circumstances. Jesus was born in poverty, far from home and with a whiff of scandal. Each detail resonates with Ruth’s story. Upon returning to Israel, the women’s one hope was a distant relative named Boaz. He showed kindness to Ruth when she came to his fields for grain, so Ruth and Naomi devised a daring plan to enlist his assistance. Their bold approach with Boaz could have resulted in deep shame, but to their astonishment, Boaz fell in love with Ruth. So, beyond all expectations, this widowed Moab woman with no prospects won the heart of her Mr. Right.

Second, the story of Boaz and Ruth tells a version of the same redemption story of Jesus. Boaz was the kinsman-redeemer (“guardian”) (Ruth 4:14), who purchased Naomi’s land and rescued Ruth and Naomi. Jesus, our Redeemer, secured our atonement by paying our debts with His blood. Boaz’s redemption of Ruth is a foreshadowing of Christian salvation. When we see how Boaz saved Ruth and Naomi, we should smile because Jesus did the exact same thing for each of us.

Third, both stories are about restoring the good in spite of suffering. The crucifixion was a horrible defeat, until it became a great victory. The story of Ruth also looked like a tragedy, until Boaz married a daughter of one of Israel’s enemies. It wasn’t a sin, but a great act of faith. Boaz and Ruth became the great-grandparents of King David, and Ruth became an essential part of the legacy of the Messiah and His Christmas story.

Dr. Timothy Yoder
Professor of Theological Studies