THE SUNDAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Genealogies are common in Hebrew bible and were a matter of pride. Mathew’s portrait of the genealogy of Jesus Christ is an amazing testimony to God’s power to overcome the sin of humankind. This stylized ancestral tree consisting of roughly three groups of fourteen: from Abraham to David, from David to the deportation to Babylon; and from the deportation to Jesus. The numerical value of David’s name in Hebrew is fourteen, which may account for this arrangement.
From an Orthodox perspective, these three phases represent the three states of human life. The first phase represents the uniqueness and dignity of humanhood, and the continued fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden. The separation and lost fellowship with God when they committed sin represents the second phase. But God never abandoned the humankind. The salvation plan by sending the Son of God for the remission of human sin and the reinstatement of the fellowship with God represents the third phase.
Jesus genealogy is unusual, not simply because it includes women, but also because it features non-Israelite women, some of questionable repute (e.g., Tamar, Rahab). In short, despite Mathew’s intention to prove that Jesus is a true Israelite, this genealogy is by no means a “pure” family tree: Judah visited prostituted women; Rahab was a prostituted woman; David committed adultery and murder; Solomon flirted with idols. The inclusion of women (and/ or with questionable repute) may prefigure Mary’s own marital dilemma and the coming mission to the gentiles.
Yet through these imperfect people, God was able to preserve his promises and shape earthly events to prepare the way for the savior Messiah. Today, let’s think about what all ways in which we have departed from God’s will for us? Think about how God has called us back. Despite our spiritual dryness and (perceived) distance from God, can’t we see God’s working to keep us back on track with his purposes?
Today’s Gospel reading gives us the hope, that despite we slipped away we can come back as he came to call not the righteous but the sinners.