The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (1:1-25)
Today’s gospel reading is read every year on the Sunday before the Feast of Nativity. We commonly call this gospel reading “the geneology” for the simple fact that we are reading about the family tree of the Lord Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew.
St. Matthew wrote his gospel especially to the Jewish people to convince them of the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was in fact the Jewish Messiah or anointed one. He was the one that the Jews had hoped for all these years. He was the one that was foretold by the Jewish prophets for hundreds of years. St. Matthew, in order to make his case and convince his listeners that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, must first establish that this Jesus is actually a Jew, or else, he cannot be the Jewish Messiah.
St. Matthew starts from Abraham, the father of the Jewish people and he then traces the line through King David, and through the deportation to Babylon until the time of the Messiah. He ends not surprisingly with Joseph who was betrothed to the Virgin Mary. This is important because according to the Jewish understanding, Joseph was the legal father of Jesus. It is also important to remember that not only is Joseph the legal father of Jesus, but the Lord is truly Jewish through His holy Mother’s bloodline and lineage.
As we read or listen to the names listed by St. Matthew we are presented with a who’s who of the Old Testament. Some of these names where truly righteous in the sight of God and others were quite fallen. At times some of the people listed were at either end of the spectrum depending on the time of their life. This gospel reading is a reminder that the Old Testament, what the creed calls, “the Scriptures” are quite important. They are the history of God’s dealing with humanity and with His very own chosen people. When we read this Old Testament, we are invited into a deeper understanding of where we were, and what God has done for us through His Son. As we are just a week or so from the start of the New Year, it is a good time for some resolutions. One of the great resolutions that we can make is to try to read the entire Bible in one year. There are various apps and guides to doing that, but one simply way to approximate and read the whole Bible in a year is to read 3 chapters every day and 4 on Sundays. I have no doubt that our lives would be really enriched through this practice. Perhaps it could even be a family activity.
In hearing all of these names we are reminded that God really calls us His people. He really chooses a group of people to call His own and He works in their midst, through their imperfections and the struggles of their life to bring about His salvation to the entire human race. None of these people had a perfect, pain free existence. All of them suffered, were tempted, fell into sin. None of them was perfect, yet God worked through their imperfections to bring about the possibility of human perfection through His perfect Son.
We are reminded that salvation is a messy business. It is not clean and sterile. It is not an intellectual pursuit, but involves our whole being. The Lord Jesus Christ so loved His creation, humanity, that He chose to take our form and likeness in order to adopt and sanctify us. St. Matthew desires to prove that Jesus is indeed Jewish, but it is just as important to remember that Jesus is truly a perfect human in the flesh. If He is not truly human, then we cannot be saved. In all of this, as we hear these names we are reminded that humanity was in a fallen state. If humanity was perfect, then there was absolutely no need for a savior. And we still are not perfect. We are in dire need of the grace of God that is presented to us in the God-man, Jesus Christ. He is not waiting for us to be perfect, He has in fact come in order to perfect us and not vice-versa. If we cannot have a relationship with Christ until we are perfect, then we will never have a relationship with Christ. Rather, out of His loving kindness, He has descended to us in order to save us from our sins. This is why the Angel told Joseph that he should call His name Jesus (He Saves). St. Paul reiterates this when he says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Who is this that died for us? It is none other than this Jesus who came from a Jewish lineage and whose birth we celebrate this week. He took our humanity in order to bestow us with His divinity. He took our weakness in order to give us His strength. He took our finite and limited life in order to shareHis infinite, eternal life withus. That is how He loves us.
Some of you are struggling in your lives. You are struggling in your relationships, you might be struggling in your work or school. You might be struggling to pray and to know God. Some of you are struggling through difficult circumstances. Some of you have suffered at the hands of others. Some of you have gone through terrible difficulties, sicknesses, trials and torments. Don’t despair, the Lord is familiar with all of this, just as He saw all of these things in the lives of His people mentioned here today. He knows and He is present with us through all of this. Emmanuel means “God with us!” What could be more comforting than that phrase? “God with us!” The Lord Jesus Christ is not waiting for our situations to be perfect. He has become a man in order to bring perfection to us. Instead of changing our surroundings and our circumstances, He often does this by changing things from the inside out. He transforms our hearts! The Lord says that the kingdom of God is within you. Let us give Him the keys to this kingdom by giving Him a place within our hearts. Don’t be afraid. Let Him conquer your heart through love. Then He will transform the dark and desolate places of your life with His presence. For wherever God is, there is warmth and light, joy and peace. Let this coming Christmas feast be a reminder that God desires to receive our invitation, just as we see the face of His newborn Son as an invitation to draw near to Him. Glory be to God forever AMEN.