Advent Reflection #17
We often skip over this tedious beginning to the Christmas story in Matthew’s Gospel. Or, if we read it, we focus in on verse 1 – and for understandable reasons. In verse 1 we read that Jesus is the Messiah, and that he is the son of David and the son of Abraham. As Messiah, Jesus is the long-expected One who will come to save God’s people. As the son of David he is or will be King, and not just any King, a King like David – the greatest of Israel’s Kings. And as the son of Abraham, Jesus is the fulfillment of the covenant. He is not only heir to the promise, but he is promise come to fulfillment.
Clearly verse 1 is not chronological, but rather theological in nature. Beginning in verse 2, we receive a chronological and genealogical account of Jesus’s family tree. Do not think, though, that Matthew’s theological teaching stops with verse 1.
Notice that the genealogy is one that is traced through men, through fathers – though with some clear and intentional exceptions: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Tamar, who pretended to be a prostitute in order to bear a child to Judah (who should not have slept with a prostitute in the first place!). Rehab, a prostitute who helped the spies of Israel, spy out the land and Jericho. Ruth, a gentile who was loyal to Naomi, and eventually married Boaz. And Bathsheba, a young beautiful peasant girl seduced and most likely raped by King David, and who’s husband was murdered by David in order to allow her to be with David. Shady characters, some, shady stories all. And yet, Matthew makes it a point to include these figures in Jesus’s patriarchal (male defined) genealogy.
It seems that God’s plan makes detours. It works with human errors, and accounts for sin and weakness. This short genealogy, yet again, demonstrates that God is adept in making good of our bad, of making a way when there seems to be no way. It’s only this sort of genealogy, after all, that could logically lead to the strange birth of the Messiah to a teenage, unwed, virgin, peasant girl in the filth and stench of an animal’s stable.
God’s story, you see, isn’t written with fixed type, but with crooked, loving, hand-written lines. Mistakes and all, your story can be made a part of God’s story too.
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus