The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (1:1-25)
Our reading today is given to us on the Sunday which falls before the Nativity of Our Lord (which we will celebrate tonight). In this gospel reading we see that St. Matthew has undertaken the immense task of documenting much of the genealogy of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He traces the line according to Jewish custom through the father’s lineage. In this case it goes through Joseph’s lineage since he was assumed to be the father of the Lord. However in the gospel according to St. Luke we notice that Luke actually traces the lineage of the Lord through Mary, His actual mother, all the way back to Adam and Eve.
In this list that has been provided by Matthew we see many famous and some infamous names from the Old Testament. Within this list is a veritable who’s who of the Scriptures. We see Abraham, the father of the Jewish people. We see his sons Isaac and Jacob. We see Jesse and David the king as well as his son the wise Solomon. And many many more. What we can’t help but think about if we have read the Old Testament and have some familiarity with these names is just how truly human these men and woman listed here actually were. We see the faithful, but we also see some who lacked faith. We see liars and thieves, harlots and adulterers and even murderers. This is the family tree into which Jesus of Nazareth was born. I’ve often appreciated the saying “Friends are the family you choose.” But in this case, the Lord chose to come into history and to make himself a part of this family and it’s twisted, often extremely flawed story. In this way, the Lord is not so unlike every one of us. If we dig back into our family histories we will no doubt find out that our family is not necessarily filled with saints but with a scrambled assortment of characters, some good, some not so good.
I want to tell you that the Lord did not make a mistake in coming to be a part of this family tree. The Lord became part of this family tree in order to save this tree, to heal this tree and to allow this tree to bear fruit that would feed the whole world, and indeed, the whole universe. The fact that the Lord Jesus chose to become part of this group of fallen men and women is a great blessing for us because indeed we are all fallen men and women. The lineage of the Lord is in some ways a symbol of the rest of humanity. We should fall on our faces and thank and glorify the God who would not accept to live far from His subjects but would love us so much that He came to be a part of this human experience. And He did this with no shortcuts. I read this week that a recent poll was taken in Britain. 2000 people between the ages of 21 and 38 were shown a picture of the nativity scene and nearly 39 percent could not identify the baby. That is a sad state of affairs. How could the people lose sight of this most precious of historical events?
The Lord did not appear suddenly one day as a great prophet. Neither did He come riding on the clouds as the great messiah. He appeared as the smallest and the most vulnerable of all creation, a new born baby. He was fed at the Virgin’s breast. He was nurtured and supported. He was hidden and protected while others sought His life. What love has the Lord had for us that He would agree to enter into such a life?! It is a mystery that we can never fully comprehend. Hundreds of years earlier the Prophet Isaiah received a vision and he wrote it for us “Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and His Name shall be called Emmanuel (God with Us).” God with us! Does this bring us joy? Does it fill us with wonder? Does it stir our senses?
Sometimes as Christians it is easy to be hard on ourselves. We struggle and we pray but we often have the nagging sense that we are not good enough. We get the feeling that we are still so far from perfection. And, we are right. We are indeed, still far from perfection. But don’t despair, Christ isn’t waiting for you to become perfect so that He can come to you. Christ wants to come to you because He wants to perfect you! He wants to make you holy. As often as you will open yourself to Him, He will come and dwell with you just as He came to dwell with humanity as part of this not so perfect family tree. Don’t worry about your imperfections or your sins. The love of God does not depend on us. God sent His only begotten Son to wipe away our sins. Our task is to embrace Christ with gratitude. We can do this by being grateful for what the Lord gives us. We can do this by being obedient to His teachings, which enlighten and inform our lives. We can embrace Christ by settling down and praying thoughtfully, attentively, patiently, instead of rushing through it as if it is a chore.
We can embrace Christ by embracing His body, the Church, and allowing the prayers and sacraments to be a part of our day to day lives. We can embrace Christ by embracing the poor and the needy as Christ has embraced all of us who are poor and needy. We can embrace Christ by loving His All Holy Mother and the rest of the saints, who honored and lived and breathed the Lord Jesus. Those who honor the saints, honor Christ Himself.
Finally, we can embrace Christ as a newborn baby. Have you ever seen the way that people react to seeing a newborn? They melt, they are in awe, they pour out so much love and adoration on the little one. When we see a newborn our hearts can barely contain the feelings. Imagine just how much love and adoration we should give to the One who was born of a Virgin in order to die and give us life!
To Him alone is due glory, with His Father and the Holy Spirit AMEN.