Thursday, December 17, 2009

You can't pick your family - and neither could Jesus!

Homily for Thursday, December 17, 2009:

You should congratulate any priest or deacon who successfully made his way through today's Gospel.  It is the decathalon of proclamation linguistics - the Genealogy of Jesus from Matthew's Gospel. Perez, Hezron, Amminadab, Nahshon, Rehoboam, Abijah, Asaph, Jehoshaphat.  The names just keep coming at you like a verbal assault. The rat-a-tat-tat of them seemingly endless! Such is the family of the Messiah.

But what are we to make of this Gospel passage?  Some cringe when it finds its way into the schedule.  Some avoid it all together. Some rush through it so quickly it is an unintelligible garble of gobbledy-gook!  This is a shame because despite the verbal gymnastics, it is one of the richest passages of Scripture.

I remember tackling this in a Scripture class we had while I was a novice.  The Novice Master, himself a great Scripture scholar, asked us if we could only keep one passage of Scripture, the rest was going to go away, what would we keep?  His answer was the Genealogy of Christ.  He would go on to explain how in this list of the descendants of Christ, the whole of salvation history was being presented.

When we look at the geneaology, we see lots of what we would expect for the lineage of the Savior of the World; the very Son of God.  We find Abraham, the one with whom the story began; the forebear of all who would be called God's people.  We find Jacob who would wrestle an angel.  We find the great kings - the courageous David; the infinitely wise Solomon.  This much is not surprising.

But, if we look deeper, it could raise an eyebrow.  We find non-Jews; people not of the covenant - namely Rahab and Ruth.  Worse than this, Rahab is a prostitute. We also find Bathsheeba, an adulteress.  We find other kings who were not of the stature of David or Solomon, but rather those who would lead Israel down the wrong path away from its Godly destiny.

In other words, we find a family just like yours or mine.  We find a family complete with its success stories and its triumphant figures; and we find a family complete with its crazy Uncle Joe's and Cousin Betty's.  We find a family just like any other human family.

I can't help but think of that often-cited phrase, "You can pick your friends, but you can't pick your family."  The same was true for even the Son of God.   The technical theological term we use for the Birth of Christ is the Incarnation; a word that comes from the Latin in-carne or quite literally "in the flesh."  Jesus did not magically or suddenly appear on the scene as though from some Fellini movie - Heavens part, choirs sing, bright light, and voila Jesus!

No, our Savior is born the same we were through a 9 month pregnancy; even through the difficulties along the way - ending up birthed in a manger stall.  He comes to us in the flesh in the same way you and I came into the world.  He came in the likeness of humanity.

And the beauty of this, I think, as we reflect upon the family, the genealogy of Christ is this - if the Savior could be born into this family - beginning with Abraham all the way to Mary and Joseph - with all of its triumphs and challenges; then He can be born again into your family and my family too.

In fact, He has.  In fact, His genealogy is ours too.  In baptism, we were made members of this very same family of God.  So, these descendants are ours.  So, as we recall the great heritage that is our Godly Family, let us remember to make room again because just around the corner, we will have a new arrival - the Son of God wishes to be born again in our hearts, in our homes, in our lives and in our families!

May God give you peace!

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