The 'Reason for the Season', is YOU...
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham…” seems to simply be a boring and long list of names. But for the Jewish people, genealogies told a story. They gave identity. They repeated for each generation, the promises of God; fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled.
In particular, this is a genealogy of fulfillment. It is the genealogy of the Son of God. Matthew is asking his readers to remember the covenant made with Abraham: “…your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice…” (Genesis 22:17-18). He wants us to remember the promises made to David: “…And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).
When we read this genealogy, we should do so with awareness that the first people to hear it had been waiting a really long time for fulfillment. For generations, they passed on the knowledge of the promises and prophecies of God. So, in this beginning of Matthew’s story, they hear much more than a list of names. They hear fulfillment and faithfulness. They hear hope and love. Through thousands of years of waiting, the promise made in Genesis 3:15 has been kept. The oaths made to Abraham, Moses, David have been remembered. The Lord has been true to his promises.
Reminds us that God is faithful.
There are many occasions in the Old Testament when the God declared the future promise to Israel that there would one day be a New Covenant between them and their God, such as in Jeremiah 31:31-34.
See, days are coming—says the LORD—when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke my covenant, though I was their master— says the LORD. But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days— says the LORD. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. They will no longer teach their friends and relatives, “Know the LORD!” Everyone, from least to greatest, shall know me— says the LORD —for I will forgive their iniquity and no longer remember their sin.
On the night of the Last Supper, this everlasting covenant which is Christ, Jesus while in the company of his disciples speaks of its fulfillment in his passion, death and resurrection, with his words during the institution of the Eucharist, saying: “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
“Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16). “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).
Reminds us who we are, really…
The popular idea today is that you have to look deep within yourself to discover your true identity. But, what if you don’t like what you find? What do you do? We could drop our expectations so as to never be disappointed in ourselves and others, or seek the truth about ourselves from the one who created us. Easy, ask God in prayer – Who am I?- God will answer quickly and comprehensively with a bullet pointed list that describes your identity… right? No.
But, with our sin induced confusion about ourselves, God prepared a plan to answer the question for everyone. The answer is in the incarnation, the birth of the Son of God that we celebrate this weekend.
When you find your identity in Christ, in the revelation of who Jesus is and what He has done, rather than on what you find hidden deep inside yourself, you can live life to its truest, not distracted by whatever momentary messages are dictating the way you live.
What does it mean to have your identity hidden in Christ? It means, you abandon any image of yourself that is not from God. … You start believing what God says about you.” Finding your identity in Christ means you do a better job believing that what God says about you is truer than what anyone else (including yourself) says. When you’re tempted to believe that you’re either much better than you really are, or much worse than you really are, look to what the Bible says about you.
Ephesians, in the first chapter says “in Christ” or “in Him” about 11 times and describe a host of incredible things about ourselves that if we truly believed, it would change everything. It says that those in Christ are blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (verse 3), chosen (verse 4), predestined and adopted (verse 5), redeemed and forgiven (verse 7), grace has been lavished on them (verse 7), that they are “in the know” on God’s will (verse 9), have been given an inheritance (verse 11), and are sealed by the Holy Spirit (verse 13).
If you come to base your identity in these statements, it roots your identity in something that can’t be changed and can’t go away. Jesus.
We are reminded, why it is we celebrate today.
Fr. Blair Gaynes has been in the Diocese since 2008.