Our reading today is given to us on the Sunday before Christmas, the feast of Nativity. Today we heard a great long list of names from the Old Testament. Some of these names are quite familiar to us such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David. There are many names listed that are not quite as familiar to us even if we’ve spent considerable time studying our Bibles. Did you ever wonder why St. Matthew would take the time to list all these names for us? What was the purpose of this list? Why did he write it?
As you read the gospel according to Matthew you see that his main goal is to convince the Jewish people that their own messiah had come. “Messiah” means anointed one. The prophets of Israel foretold the coming of God’s anointed servant. So in order for Matthew to prove that Jesus is the long awaited messiah, he must first prove that Jesus is Jewish, a son of Abraham. Next he must prove that Jesus is of royal lineage. That He is in fact part of the “kingly” line of David the King. Now some modern Jews have criticized the genealogy of Matthew because it ends with Joseph. They ask “how can Jesus be the Jewish king if His father is not actually Joseph. That is a reasonable question since we believe that the Lord was born of the Virgin.
The answer for St. Matthew is that according to Jewish legal understanding the father is Joseph as the head of household. Of course if you hear the genealogy of St. Luke you will find that the Lord Jesus is actually related by blood to King David through His mother Mary who also Jewish and also part of the royal bloodline. In this way we have two authentic ways in which Jesus is legally and actually part of Jewish royalty.
As we think further about all the names listed we begin to understand that the whole history of Israel in the Old Testament is not simply a story of how God deals with His people. It is also a story about how God will redeem His people. Each one of the names listed is a relative of Jesus Christ. Each one of these people is like us, in desperate need of the healing and redemption that come only through the Lord.
When you read the Old Testament you are not simply reading old stories about things that happened before Jesus was born. You are reading about all the things that led up to His birth. Things that happened in the Old Testament had a direct impact upon the life of the Virgin Mary and the Lord. So if you haven’t read the Old Testament I encourage you to read it after you’ve read the New Testament. After all we would not want you to be like a majority of people nowadays, who speak about the Bible and about Jesus before they’ve ever read the actual words. We would not take medical advice from amateurs, so why in the world would you trust your soul and your spiritual well-being to the opinions of amateurs?
Perhaps one of the great new year’s resolutions that we could make would be to challenge ourselves to read through the whole Bible. It is very easy to read the whole Bible in one year by reading about 3 chapters a day and 4 on Sundays. Reading through the whole Bible will help us to really know the mind of God and understand all of the ways that God was grooming and pruning His people for the coming of His own Son into the world.
The gospel today reminds us that we are not a part of some separate religion that came from nowhere. Jesus fulfilled the Jewish religion and opened up the true meaning of much that was hidden in the Old Testament and in the Jewish people. The Lord Jesus doesn’t simply fill the requirements of being a Jew. He redefines and perfects what it means to be a Jew. Jesus doesn’t simply fill the requirements of being royalty. He gives us a much greater understanding of what it means to be a king.
St. Matthew shows us the connection of the Old Testament to the long awaited messiah. His hope is that the Jewish people will stop and pay attention and recognize His true identity. The angel that appeared to Joseph in a dream told him to call the baby “Yeshua” which is to say “Joshua” or Jesus; which means “He saves”. Do we understand the Lord Jesus is the one who saves the whole world? Do we understand the Lord Jesus is the only one who can save us from our sins and our brokenness? Do we understand the Lord Jesus is the only one who can repair our broken relationships? Do we understand the Lord Jesus is our only hope, our only way to God?
If we answer “No” we have no business celebrating Christmas. But if we answer “yes” to all these questions, we can rejoice with the angels and shepherds and wise men. In fact, we can rejoice with the whole universe…. And glory be to God forever AMEN.