Matthew 1: 1-17
Doctor Luke started his Christmas report to his friend Theophilus by putting the Nativity story in the context of old Zechariah, a priest, and his barren wife Elizabeth, beyond child-bearing age. I would imagine that prayer request was “soaked in prayer” and seemingly unanswered until the right time in God’s eyes. Angel Gabriel brought the news. And so the story started for doctor Luke. This old faith couple would conceive and bear the forerunner of Jesus. Not only would the baby encourage the couple, fulfill prophecy, but also the baby would leap with joy in the womb, confirming Mary’s pregnancy when she visited. Whew. Our stories unfold in community, in a social context.
I can hear my mother skeptically quoting, “It takes two to tango!” The story seems to center on the young girl, always portrayed in blue, calmly accepting the Lord’s will. Hmmmm. Somehow I don’t think it was quite that easy. An unexpected pregnancy, no matter how explainable, challenges the hearts and beliefs of those also involved. Today we look at Joseph and the finance’s struggle. To pick up his side of the story, we turn to the Gospel of Matthew.
Matthew is thought by many to be Levi, the tax collector who was one of the twelve. As a tax collector and as a Jew, he knew the importance of records and lineage. He does not give the social context but the legal context. He starts with the genealogy of Joseph, “husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah. (Matthew 1:16)” Matthew traces Joseph back to Abraham. That is a legal stamp of approval in the face of gossip. Mary’s genealogy is given in Luke 3:23, for those into genealogies and places Jesus squarely in the line of David.
There are lots of commentaries on this genealogy, who’s included, who is not and how many generations. Genealogies are important. My husband was adopted and we have two adopted children. None of them know their genealogies. There is a blank spot in their memories. No pictures to compare looks with. No stories to live up to and unfavorable connotations of being “unwanted” or not legitimate that they had to learn to live with. Matthew knew that Jews traced so much of their identity to Father Abraham and so that is where he started.
Where do you start to tell your story about how Jesus was birthed in your heart? Yes, we will look at the Nativity story next week but this week, the third week of Advent, we are still focusing on preparing for Christmas. God was obviously preparing for a long time building up a genealogical context and a social context for the birth of Jesus. For most of us, Jesus did not just pop into our reality. God was preparing and working in our history. Can you identify three important people who impacted your life in the journey of faith? Take a moment to thank God for these ancestors and friends this morning. Just think, God was working in our past story to bring us to faith and now is working, carrying us into our futures. Wow! Thank you Lord.