The Mystery of the Incarnation

Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile,
fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations. Matthew 1:17

I want to welcome guests and visitors who have joined us; those who have joined their families, who have traveled a bit to be here this evening. It is good that we are together to celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord. I’m going to take for granted that this is not the gospel you expected to hear tonight. And on Christmas it’s probably not the gospel you want to hear. Nor do I suppose that if I cite the greatest scripture scholar our nation has produced, Father Raymond Braun, who said that Matthew’s genealogy contains within it all the essential Theology of both the Old and the New Testament, and should be proclaimed at least once a year in the Church. That probably won’t do a whole lot to convince you or change your disappointment. At what point in the proclamation of the Gospel, as strong as it was, at what point did you begin to feel frustrated? At what point did you begin to daydream and your mind went someplace completely elsewhere? Is Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus just a boring list of unfamiliar and hard to pronounce names? Were at least a few names familiar? I’m thinking Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You’re probably familiar with them. We call them the Patriarchs. Ruth has a book named for her in the Old Testament the third chapter of which is definitely not rated PG-13. David the King is considered the greatest king in the history of Israel. It is rather ironic, Divine irony, that it is in fact, of all of his children, his illegitimate son, the result of his assault upon Bathsheba, who ultimately becomes the successor to his father’s throne: Solomon. And Solomon is known for his wisdom. For those of you who have participated in our Bible study or perhaps Mary’s Old Testament Class, A few of the other may name might be Vaguely Familiar even though you might not be able to pin them down exactly. names like Tamar, Rahab, Boaz, and Obed, Hezekiah, Josiah. And of course we all know Joseph and Mary.

To be honest though, if a lot of the names are not familiar, don’t feel bad. Scripture scholars who devote their entire life to helping us understand The Bible, acknowledged that some of these people in Matthew’s genealogy are known only to God we have no clue who these people are they are as anonymous to us as someone we might pass by on the side of the road, or walk by in the grocery store. They are as unknown to us as perhaps the people who are sitting three rows behind us, or two miles over from us. And yet we know them better than we think we do.

In fact, we know that person we drive by on the side of the road, and that person we walk by in the grocery store better than we think we do. We know the people sitting in a few rows behind us or a few rows over from us better than we think we do. Because we know that they, like us, have hopes and dreams. We know that there have been times in their life that they have laughed, and laughed uncontrollably. And there are times where they have cried, and likewise cried uncontrollably. We know that they have experienced fear. And have known moments of profound peace and wonder. We know that, just like ourselves, they require food and shelter, warmth, friendship, and respect. They really are not just names and faces. They are a part of us; they are one with us. In fact, they are not even they. They are us.

To play upon the words of Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, “we are all of us fellow passengers on the way to the grave.” And if we paused and recognized one another’s mortality, that in itself could make us kinder, more patient, less judgmental, and more willing to forgive each other. At one point in the mass the instructions call for the priest, tonight that would be me, to extend my hand over the Bread and Wine, and to ask God to send forth the Holy Spirit to sanctify these offerings (sometimes it’s phrased, sanctify these gifts). And that phrase, these offerings, these gifts refer not only to Bread and Wine. They refer to us. And not only to us gathered here, but they refer to the entire body of Christ, the entire church and even beyond the church to all the people of God. They are essentially the prayer of Tiny Tim that we invoke God to make us holy, everyone. The Word became flesh. God becomes human. God enters our humanity so that we are able to enter the humanity of one another. And every time we step outside of ourselves and enter into the world of another person, our very self, our being is joined to the mystery of the Incarnation.