“Great,” you might be thinking with a heavy dose of sarcasm. “Another Gospel reading featuring a long, repetitive genealogy with a bunch of Hebrew names I don’t know. What fun...”
Maybe I’ve spent too much time on Ancestry.com, but there’s something exciting about bursting into the very beginning of Matthew as we round a corner in our Advent waiting. It feels like the home stretch. Today and tomorrow we read the beginning of Matthew, and then it’s all Luke’s infancy narrative from here until Christmas.
Why do I get excited about this X-begat-Y, Y-begat-Z… section? I’ll stick with three quick reasons.
This list of names carries a strong message—Jesus didn’t just drop out of the sky. The radical claim is that God entered our world the same way we all do, born of those who came before us. Not only our parents, but a long line of ancestors, each with their own name and story.
The four women from Hebrew Scripture that make the list—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba (the wife of Uriah)—are all outsiders in some way, but they are essential to the narrative that would set the stage for Jesus.
Then there’s Matthew’s summary. From Abraham to David to the Babylonian exile to Christ, this narrative is a history of hoping, surviving and looking forward, generation after generation.
Given everything that is happening in our world this Advent, we might feel like we are in exile. We might feel like an outsider to the story. Today we are encouraged to trust that exile leads to the presence of God, so we hope alongside the psalmist: “Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.”
May justice and peace spring out of the unexpected places of our lives.