Monday, December 12, 2016

The Genealogy of the Infancy Narratives

Dear Friends,

Where did you come from? What ethnic people, what language group? What qualities of mind, heart and spirit are in you (some would say in your gene pool) by virtue of their being cultivated, honored, practiced by others in your family at various times in history? says it can give you information to help fill in some of the gaps in your identity. But there’s more to the question of who we are and where we came from that is important at this time of year for all of us who are Christian. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we come face to face with what it means to say we are part of the family of God, Father/Mother, Word and Holy Spirit.

The Russian artist, Rublev, shows the viewer in his painting of the Holy Trinity, that there is a fourth seat pulled up at the table. For us. We are welcome at the table of the Trinity. We belong. We are the brothers and sisters of the Word Made Flesh, Jesus, Emmanuel, God – With-Us. His family is our family.

So let’s pause over something we usually skip as boring – the genealogy that begins the infancy narrative in Matthew 1.1 – 17, and the genealogy in Luke 3.23 – 38. Even though we often skip these passages, they offer the reader a human context into which we can situate Jesus and our own spiritual heritage.

Matthew’s Infancy Narratives can be described as a bridge between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. The first thing Matthew tells us is that Jesus can be traced through Joseph back to Abraham. One notable point about Matthew’s genealogy is that four women are included. Not all were seemingly “pure.” Tamar tricked her father-in-law, Judah, into her bed. Rahab was a prostitute who saved Jesse and his colleagues from death in Jericho. Ruth was a poor foreigner. Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, when she came together with David. These four all bore sons. There’s more to their stories, of course, but in fact, these four women were counted as important in the lineage that led to Jesus.

Luke places his genealogy of Jesus immediately after the baptism of Jesus. It’s shorter, includes no women and traces Jesus back through history to Seth, Adam and ultimately, God.
In our belonging to the family of God, the Israelites, Hebrews, Jews are part of our spiritual history. That means that we ought to be ready for an immense spiritual gathering for Christmas, for these people will be there as well as our own families of origin going back as far as we can trace them. Christmas is a celebration of mutual belonging: God with us, we with God, we with one another from time immemorial. This Christmas, think big.

~~~Continuing from last week our list of people to cherish during Advent as God cherishes us:

Dec. 12 world delegates to the United Nations   Dec. 13 the visually impaired and their supporters     Dec. 14 those newly  elected  to serve                  Dec. 15 children dying of malnutrition                         
Dec. 16 retail clerks                                                   Dec. 17 prisoners on death row
Dec. 18 the people of Haiti

~ Sister Joan Sobala