Christmas is an important time for family, not because we exchange gifts and go to plenty of parties eating to our heart’s content. That would be an incomplete response. The concept of family is important because it is through a family that Jesus enters the world. Let’s take peek through the lenses of his geneology … family tree. We here it in poetic rhythm in today’s liturgy.
In the Gospel of Matthew (1:1-17), two names that are vital in the genealogy account: Abraham and David. In Abraham, the whole human family is brought to a universal dimension of blessing as he will be the father of many nations. David is spoken of as the one whose throne will be established forever. After listing the fourteen generations, Jesus is mentioned (1:16) for in him all of history finds its origin in him and it is his throne that will be eternal. Moreover, there is mention of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah. These are non-Jewish women. In them, the promise of a Savior has been promised to the Gentiles. More importantly, Matthew’s genealogy ends out of poetic rhythm, with a woman … Mary … “Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah” (1:16) In Mary, we find the new beginning. If that was not enough, the mention of Joseph allows our beloved Lord to belong legally to the law and to the house of David while remaining from above. Humanity begins afresh in the twofold origin of the Lord as human and divine, nurtured and protected by Mary and Joseph.
In the Gospel of Luke (3:23-38), a distinct difference comes at the off-set. The genealogy begins with Jesus and ends with Adam, the son of God. For Matthew, we see the family tree from its roots, the beginning, to the heights. In Luke, we see the genealogy from the heights, looking back at our human roots. Luke does not use the poetic rhythm of fourteen generations. Rather, he simply lists 76 names. It is key in understanding how Luke presents Jesus as the fulfillment of time. He enters humanity in order to give us a fresh new beginning. He is not one from Adam, rather from God himself.
It’s all code to tell us that Jesus purposefully, decisively, and totally enters our human experience as fully human, as fully divine. He purposefully wants to dwell with us. It is in this dwelling that God has emptied himself for us … so that none of us can say that he does not understand … when in fact, he understands completely …. from all eternity … he has .
“Our Saviour, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. ” Pope Leo the Great, Sermon 21