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.
Reading I: Isaiah 62:1-5
Your God rejoices in you! You are God’s Delight, God’s Espoused! How does this speak to you? When were you so full of joy you could not be quiet?
The conferral of a new name designated God’s almighty power over creation. When one was given a new name, that person was made a new creation, (Birmingham, W&W, p. 88). Isn’t it endearing when someone calls you by a nickname? It draws you close to each other. God calls you by name, for you belong to God. Relish in it.
Reading II: Acts 13:16-17, 22-25
In this reading, Paul is connecting the messianic promise in the Hebrew scriptures to its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Paul wants to be sure his audience is listening to this message. Jesus came to save them – and us! Know that this Christmas. Jesus comes to us as a small child, unlike any image of Messiah anyone could have possibly imagined. But Jesus comes to us now, in our hearts. We must listen for it.
Gospel: Matthew 1:1-25
Matthew begins with this genealogical lineage, almost like a commercial before the main event. It was so important to the people at that time to see a link between Abraham, the Father of their faith, and Jesus. The important link is Joseph, since he is Jesus’ legal father and heir to the house of David. The genealogy shows that God used ordinary, unknown men and women to be part of the greatest story over told. Not just unknown – some were downright scoundrels! David himself was no saint, and others were horrible kings. But everyone has a place in history. We all may have a sordid family tree – Jesus understands that! (Remember that when you are at your family gatherings this Christmas!) Jesus stands as a beacon of light in the midst of relational darkness, (Birmingham, W&W, p. 90).
From Celebration Dec. 2004:
On keeping Christmas all year long: believe and live as if love is the strongest thing in the world – stronger than hate, stronger than fear, stronger than death. “God-with-us” – God’s power and love is forever involved with all that is human.
From The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Matthew Vol I, Barclay:
Jesus is the answer to the dreams of men [and women]. It is true that so often we don’t see it that way. We see the answer in power, wealth, material plenty and the realization of anticipated ambitions. But if ever our dreams of peace and loveliness, and greatness and satisfaction, are to be realized, they can find their realization only in Jesus Christ.
The relationships in this passage are bewildering…first Joseph is betrothed to Mary, then he wants to divorce her, and suddenly she is his wife. These are the steps to a normal Jewish marriage procedure in those days:
- Engagement: This was usually done when the couple were only children, through the parents or a matchmaker.
- Betrothal: This was the sealing of the engagement. The girl could withdraw up to this point. Once entered, it was binding and lasted a year. The couple would be called man and wife even though they didn’t quite have the rights yet. Only divorce could end a betrothal. This is the stage Mary and Joseph were in.
- Marriage: Full marital consent.
Jesus is the Greek form of the Jewish name Joshua, meaning Jehovah is salvation. Jesus was born by the action of the Holy Spirit, a Virgin Birth. What does this mean for us? According to the Jewish idea, the Holy Spirit was the person who brought God’s truth to humanity. It was the Holy Spirit who taught the prophets what to say and what to do. This is how Mary and Joseph would have understood it. Jesus would be the one person who could tell us what God is like, and what God means us to be. In Jesus we see the love, the compassion, the mercy, the seeking heart, the purity of God as nowhere else in all this world.
From Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing:
God takes on flesh so that every home becomes a church, every child becomes the Christ-child, and all food and drink become a sacrament. God’s many faces are now everywhere, in flesh, tempered and turned down, so that our human eyes can see him. God, in his many-faced face, has become as accessible, and visible, as the nearest water tap. That is they why of the incarnation.
God is still here, in the flesh, just as real and just as physical, as God was in Jesus. The word did not just become flesh and dwell among us – it became flesh and continues to dwell among us.