Today, might be the first the Sunday of Advent, but the decorating and preparing for the event of Christmas has begun! In our house, fresh eyes saw the decorations anew as the train set came out. Hours upon hours have already been spent transporting countless Nativity people, Paw Patrol pups, and firetrucks from point A to point B on the train loop. Fresh eyes of delight and joy.
This Advent season, I invite each of you to come with fresh eyes to the season. Many of us know the story of preparing the coming of the Christ child well. Sometimes the familiarity can feel comforting. Other times, it can feel hollow and empty. Each of us come to this season from a different place. Some of us have been waiting for the anticipation of Christmas and a college-aged student coming home! Others of us are dreading this holiday time as traditions are changing, and not in ways we like. This Advent season, look for the Advent eyes of longing for God’s ways in our world. When we have Advent eyes, we do not just see the frustration of a world in need of change, but the moments in which that change breaks through.
On the strength of taking the last six months to go through the book of Genesis, let us look for how our past shows us our future. The Gospel of Matthew, written in the early eighties shortly after the destruction of the temple. These eighteen verses include 42 generations before the birth of Christ of those who make up the family of Jesus. Those in the genealogy of Matthew are inspirational and puzzling characters. They are those who look out for themselves as tricksters as well as leave everything to follow God. They are us!!
We tend to be a people who would like to look so forward that we do not have to remember the mistakes of our past. The biblical narrative calls us to work through and grow from our strengths as well as our mistakes. We like to say I have worked through our past mistakes and moved on from the past. Genealogy can root us in the stories and continuing drama of our past.
When you begin you research, you find your grandparents and their parents. There are stories we remember and know as well as those we learn. The story begins to branch out as you learn that your great uncle was a navy officer, or your third cousin was a frontier teacher.
But even as you search down ancestory.com and send away your 23 and me, there will always be more people a part of your story and your family, who you do not know. Our biblical witness is the same way, for every list of generations, there are many who we do not know. The faithful who kept covenant promises and whose lives of following God never drew attention to be recorded or noted in the biblical witness. We hear tell of twelve sons of Jacob, but only daughter, Dinah. She is only mentioned, because of the horrid story of rape and pillage that accompanied her life. The likelihood that Jacob had 4 child-bearing wives and servant with 12 sons and only 1 daughter is low. Names of women and children in fullness were often not recorded. But also, we read Noah has three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. We hear the lineage that follows through Shem. At some point, Japheth’s family is no longer recorded. Families continue in covenant faithfulness, even when they are not recorded in biblical witness.
As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, some of us need to confess that we skip over genealogies and begets in our readings. This is okay; however, it does mean that we haven’t understood them as part of the Nativity story! Why you ask, did the writer of the gospel feel the need to spend almost half of the birth narrative sharing the genealogy? Matthew, who writes after the destruction of the temple, for the Jewish Christians, understands that God has been moving through God’s people for generations and writes for communities who are grappling with those truths.
As we read Genesis, we met those who wanted God to solve all their troubles for them. Who want a Messiah to come and tie up the loss ends and figure it out. As the story of Israel continues, we hear God’s people look towards prophets, priests, kings, and others to figure it out and solve the troubles. We have heard longing. Now, we find ourselves waiting for the coming of Christ. Looking for the ways of justice and righteousness to come and roll down like rivers. Sometimes you hear people say that the world has gotten worse or that the end must be coming sooner.
Perhaps, it is more likely that we have gotten to the point that we realize that God is using us to bring change. God is using US, you and me! as God used Mary and Joseph to bring about change.
Advent is a season of longing. We are longing for Christ to come. We are longing for justice to make the world right. We are longing for the broken-hearted to be restored. We are longing for those in chronic pain to be able to run and skip and dance. We are longing for systematic oppression to replaced, not by short cut solutions of human ingenuity, but God’s ways lift up the lowly and level out the haughty.
The fresh eyes of Advents remind you and I that are longing is not just to play trains and decorate beautiful trees as delightful as all of that is. The writer of Matthew sets the genealogy to remind the reader that the longing we hold in common is for more than that. When we lament the shortsightedness of our politicians, when we lament brokenheartedness of those who mourn, when we ache with the injustices of the world, we long for the coming of the Cosmic Christ, who generations of God’s people have faithfully sought to come. We join those who have looked for glimpses of the inbreaking of Christ’s ways as the kingdom of God infiltrating this world here and now.
Like a new set of glasses, we put on Advent eyes anew and look for where God is being know to us now. We choose to let the headlines of bad behavior and brokenness become bylines, while lifting up the overlooked and the almost missed moments of God’s kingdom being caught sight of here on earth. In a few weeks, we will hear Mary sing of lifting up the disregarded. Yesterday, Pope Francis, one of the most powerful religious leaders, used his power to name a disregarded religious minority in Mynmar, the Rohignya Muslims. It is the God’s kingdom when let our power be used for the personhood and naming of others.
This Advent, let the longing in your heart be a reminder that God has always used God’s people for bringing about God’s ways in the world. Then open yourself to be used. This is the good news. God is with God’s people. God loves God’s people. God cares for God’s people.
This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
Old Testament Lesson: 2 Samuel 7:12-17
When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever. In accordance with all these words and with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 1:1-18
An account of the genealogy[a] of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.
So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, December 3rd—Saturday, December 9th
Sunday: “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. “ 2 Samuel 7: 12. The promises of God to God’s people are long. This Advent, give thanks to God, that you are a part of a generations of people who have known God and served God.
Monday: “But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established forever.” 2 Samuel 7: 15-16. God’s promises to David are to generations to follow. Where do you see God’s ways being established?
Tuesday: “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Matthew 1:1. The writer of the Gospel of Matthew grounds us in a glimpse of the ancestry of Jesus. Pray today for those generations who came before you (your parents and grandparents) as well as those generations who come after you (your children and grandchildren).
Wednesday: “and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse” Matthew 1: 5. God has a tendency to utilize those that world has not found use for. Pray today to open your eyes to God’s ways.
Thursday: “and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.” Matthew 1: 16. Pray today for the Josephs among us. Those who are seeking faithfulness, even where they do not understand.
Friday: “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.” Matthew 1:17. In this preparation days, where are you seeing God’s presence in dependable ways?
Saturday: “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1: 18. Where have you been surprised to find the Holy Spirit in your life?