Today’s first scripture is a prophecy or foreshadowing from the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible.
In this text, the patriarch Jacob, blesses his son Judah, and in his blessing foresees that from his descendents there will arise a mighty king. What Jacob foresees is fulfilled in King David. But there is an element of Jacob’s vision for Judah’s descendents that seemed impossible, the insight that the king and kingdom that Jacob foresaw would be everlasting.
The great and mighty Kingdom of David and with it, the royal house of Judah founded by David, came to a horrifying end in the year 587 BC, when the Babylonian army massacred the royal family before the walls of Jerusalem.
The prophets of the Old Testament held that God is faithful, which means that he keeps his promises and as such believed that God would accomplish what seemed impossible, and raise up a successor to King David from his ruined house. How this would happen? In this regard, the prophets were only clear about one this- divine intervention would accomplish what was impossible for human beings. One day, a true successor to King David would again reign as Lord, and he would reign not only as king of the Israelites, but of all of the world.
Christians believe that God keeps his promise in regards to the vision of Jacob in the revelation of Christ the Lord. In this revelation, God inserts himself into the last, surviving remnant of David’s lineage, and then becomes the Lord of the Israelites and of all the nations. This is who the Lord Jesus is- he is God, who becomes an Israelite, who makes himself a member of the House of David, and who becomes the fulfillment of Jacob’s vision and indeed, the visions of all the Old Testament prophets.
This is also what the presentation of the vast list of Christ’s ancestors is all about in today’s proclamation from the Gospel of Matthew.
The genealogy that you heard is not just a historical curiosity but the presentation of a statement about who precisely the Lord Jesus really and truly is- he is the revelation of God, the fulfillment of the visions of the prophets, the legitimate successor to King David and the true and only king.
The lesson? The coming solemn celebrations of the birth of Christ are not meant to commemorate the birth of a merely a philosopher, teacher or spiritual guru, but a king.
But today’s Gospel also signals to us that God reveals himself within the context of real people and real historical circumstances, and the real people and real circumstances that God associates himself with are not just the virtuous or the successful or the pristine and pure, but also, even mostly, the flotsam and jetsam of the human condition. Failures, foreigners, ne’er to wells, take their place in the ancestry of the Lord Jesus alongside the best and the brightest.
As God in Christ expands his family to include all of humanity in the Church, his strategy of inserting himself among people of questionable worthiness remains his persistent strategy. The Church is always the mixing and mingling of saints with sinners.
The Incarnation is a shock. God does what he is not supposed to do and he does what we think is impossible. He takes an acrobatic leap from heaven to earth and inserts himself into the depths of human condition, sinless, he associates himself with sinners, permitting all who would be willing to come to him the chance to be his family and friends, offering all who encounter him the possibility of being a sinner who becomes a saint.
God in Christ proves in his Incarnation that he keeps his promises, and does so in the most surprising, confounding, and unnerving ways.