Christmas Shorts - Family Tree

I love watching the TV show “Who do you think you are?” On many occasions the celebrities involved have been filled with emotion after discovering a family member’s great achievement or well-kept secret. Even the strongest stiff upper lip has been wiped out by the news of a traumatic event in the history books, leaving the celebrity surprised by the strength of their reaction.

My absolute favourite episode involves a well-known actor from the soap Eastenders. For many years Danny Dyer has had a reputation as an East End geezer and I spent most of the episode trying to decode his endless use of cockney rhyming slang.

At the start of the programme it’s clear that he knows the image he portrays.

“People watching will stereotype and all that. They’re going to expect me to be related to criminals, and maybe I am related to a few criminals, but I want the opposite to that! Who knows where it’s going to take me. I want to freak a few people out, you know, be related to aristocracy or something. Something completely left field to what I’m known for.”

By the middle of the show Danny is feeling despondent that his family tree has only turned up tragedy and sadness, but all that changes as he explores a different side of the family. Through a series of twists and turns the discovery is made that Danny’s distant relative is Thomas Cromwell. One of the key players in Henry VIII’s court, home to the biggest soap opera of all, Cromwell had the ear of Henry VIII and held a huge amount of power. He eventually lost his head, as was the case with many people connected to Henry VIII, due to his ill-conceived love match with Anne of Cleves. However, before he lost favour with the King, he did a very clever thing! He married off one of his sons to the sister of Jane Seymour.  As a result of this discovery a clear connection to King Edward III was established.  
Danny Dyer has blue blood! Who knew?

In the New Testament Matthew and Luke play the role of the avid genealogists, tracking back the lineage of Jesus at the start of their gospels.  If we’re really honest then most of us skip over Bible genealogies. They’re generally long, tedious and we don’t recognise most of the names. However, it was only through the careful investigation into the long list of names that Danny discovered the story behind his family. If we read Matthew 1:1-17 then tales of tragedy, achievement and good old mediocrity are found behind the names listed.

There are those who:

  • wrestled with God  
  • made significant mistakes and turned their lives around
  • struggled to fit in but remained faithful
  • were given nations to lead and grow
  • never did anything particularly noteworthy but still get a mention!

I don’t really know my own earthly family tree but as a Christian my spiritual genealogy is clear and outlined in John’s telling of the coming of Christ.

"But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son."

John 1:12-14

By the end of the programme Danny’s whole demeanour had changed. He jokingly demanded that the camera crew leave his property and shared how,
“I think it’s going to change me as a human being, not in a bad way, but in a way of thinking. In a positive way. It’s certainly going to give me more confidence.”

If Danny Dyer’s confidence can grow through discovering his connection to King Edward III, then how much confidence can we take from knowing that, to the King of Kings, we are one of the family?

Walk tall, you’re a child of a King!

Kay Moorby