After what feels like the longest summer for some, and a mere couple of days for others, September is upon us…and the much awaited arrival of the autumn. In celebration of the darker evenings, the season brings the timely return of many television favourites, The Great Bake Off, Strictly Come Dancing and my personal favourite, “Who Do You Think You Are”.
Now in its 16th series, the BBC genealogy classic, follows celebrities as they trace their family tree, in the hope of learning more about their ancestors, and often themselves…all in the space of 60 minutes. Each episode starts the same, our determined, enthusiastic celebrity shares their expectations for the documentary, their personal journey…dreaming of unearthing long lost dynasties, family dramas and noteworthy ancestors…all in the hope of bridging missing gaps of family history and for some, real breakdown in their own identity.
In a recent episode, we joined Oscar winning actress Kate Winslet as she heading across Europe to investigate longstanding rumours of Scandinavian ancestry, which until the documentary had merely been described as a cultural resemblance in family photos.
As a family, we love nothing more than to open the albums and sift through the family photos…hours spent reminiscing, sharing family stories, and laughing at all the dodgy haircuts and ‘interesting’ style choices of our much younger selves. Whilst many of the faces are familiar and much loved, we always find the odd photo, which even my mum, the family oracle, doesn’t recognise; leaving us wondering who this long lost relative could be and more importantly how they fit within our family story. Normally after some time, we eventually guess who the mystery person could be and suggest a connection to the wider family tree…leaving us all a bit confused and in much need of a cuppa.
In a world where connections are everything, belonging and being part of “something” remains a primary desire. In a recent article by USA Today, genealogy and the exploration of family records was deemed the second most popular hobby in the United States, with genealogy websites becoming the second most visited category of websites. Similar excitement exists around “home DNA testing kits”, with many of us seeking to research not only where we come from but what makes us unique, genetically…
As Christians we belong to a much bigger family tree, a vast list of marriages, births and deaths which traces us back to Jesus Christ and beyond. Matthew 1 provides us with the extensive genealogy of Jesus, which apart from presenting numerous un-pronounceable names, offers first-hand insight into the process of tradition, where each family passes inheritance to the next.
But our Christian legacy is much more than just a long list of names; Ephesians 1 outlines the inheritance we have received as believers and children of God, “predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to his will”. The same is seen in Romans 8 in which we are adopted as sons and daughters of God to become “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ”, through which we can experience our full freedom and salvation as children of God.
At the end of the episode, don’t worry I won’t give away any spoilers, we meet a very reflective Kate Winslet considering all the ancestors she has discovered during the episode. Whilst many questions remain unanswered, she describes her journey as one of self-discovery; “I naturally feel a connection with all the ancestors we have discovered. It makes me feel as though I fit somewhere more. Maybe because I come from such beginnings, it’s actually a matter of my DNA”.
So regardless of our current family status, or missing family links, we can be confident of our spiritual DNA, whilst being “strengthened with all his power, according to his might…and giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints” (Colossians 1); and enjoying every freedom this presents us…particularly during the autumn season.