Christmas Vigil, cycle B

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 1:1-25

It was important to the Jewish people that their lineage is rooted in Judaism.  At the time, if in any man there was the slightest admixture of foreign blood, he lost his right to be called a Jew, and a member of the people of God.  The pedigree of Jesus can be traced back to Abraham, and proves that he is the son of David.  Let us look at some of the cast of characters that make up the family genealogy of Jesus:

Abraham:  Genesis 12:1-3  Abraham is called by God to leave his country and build a new nation under God.  On the way, he makes a covenant with God that his descendants will be given the land too.  Abraham speaks regularly with God and has a close relationship, but he is not without fault.  He disowns his wife Sarai to cause favor with the Pharoah (Don’t worry, God sends plagues so Sarai is returned.) and commits adultery with a maidservant and has a child Ishmael  (who God also blesses with descendants).  Abraham had his son Isaac at 100 years old.

Ruth:  Her mother-in-law Naomi’s husband, her sister-in-law Orpah’s husband and her own husband all died because of famine.  Normally, the sisters-in-law would return to their homelands; Orpah did.  But Ruth stayed.   Ruth 1:15-18  They made their way to Bethlehem where Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s helped them with food in his fields and eventually married Ruth.  It is important to note that Ruth is not Jewish but a Moabite.

David:  David was the youngest son of Jesse and tended to the sheep.  Samuel anointed him when he was still a young boy and he defeated Goliath by slinging a stone into his forehead (and then cut his head off which the cartoons never include!).  Saul was the current king.  He felt threatened by David and sought to kill him.  David had chance to kill him first, but he spared Saul.  Saul was later killed in battle, so David was anointed king.  He praised God for his greatness and reigned well.  He did have relations with Bathsheba and had her husband killed to get him out of the picture, but he repented of this.  The psalms are attributed to David.  He sang a song of Thanksgiving 2 Samuel 22:2-7.  His son Solomon became ruler after him.

Zerubbabel:  (Because it’s fun to say)   Zerubbabel was the head of the tribe of Judah during the time of the return from the Babylon exile. He was the prime builder of the second Temple, which was later re-constructed by King Herod. He led the first group of captives back to Jerusalem and began rebuilding the Temple on the old site.  Ezra 3:1-3

The Jews were a waiting people.  They never forgot that they were the chosen people of God.  Although their history was one long series of disasters, it was the dream of the common people that into this world would come a descendant of David who would lead them to the glory which they believed to be theirs by right.  Jesus is the answer to their dreams.  He breaks the barriers of Jew/Gentile, male/female, and saint/sinner in his pedigree  (Barclay’s Daily Bible Study Series, p. 15-17).

Matthew pictures Mary and Joseph living at Bethlehem and having a house there.  The coming of the magi, guided by the star, causes Herod to slay children at Bethlehem while the Holy Family flees to Egypt.  After Herod’s death, the accession of his son Archelaus as ruler in Judea makes Joseph afraid to return to Bethlehem, so he takes the child Jesus and his mother Mary to Nazareth in Galilee, seemingly for the first time.  Luke, on the other hand, tells us that Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth and went to Bethlehem only because they had to register there during a Roman census.  The statement that Mary laid her newborn child in a manger because there was no place for them in “the inn” indicates that they had no house of their own in Bethlehem.  Luke leaves no room for the coming of the wise men or a struggle with Herod.  The Holy Spirit is content to give us 2 different accounts of the Christmas events.  To treat them separately is being faithful to them  (Raymond Brown in Scripture from Scratch’s “The Christmas Stories”, 1994)

From Altogether Gift, by Michael Downey:

In Jesus Christ, Love’s Word, we see in a fleshly way the compassion of the Father.  The Hebrew word for a woman’s womb and the word for compassion are related, and both are related to the word for mercy.  Thus, the mother’s intimate, physical relationship with her newborn is the prime image for compassion and, hence, the compassion of God in Christ.

By the Incarnation of the Word, God enters human life, history, the world.  But the Incarnation also makes it possible for us to enter the very life of God.  Through the Incarnation, God became part of our eating and drinking, our sickness, our joy, our delight, our passion, our dying, our death.  But all this is for the purpose of drawing us out of ourselves, away from our own self-preoccupation, self-absorption, self-fixation, so as to participate in the divine life.

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