Malankara World Journal Theme: Genealogy of Jesus Christ
Volume 2 No. 114 December 20, 2012
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Table of Contents
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by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World
Christmas is supposed to be the season of joy. Many children are waiting for the arrival of the Santa Claus with a bag full of gifts. However, for many this is far from a happy time. Some are fighting with life threatening diseases. Some have lost their jobs. Some have lost their loved ones and still mourning. This had been a particularly hard week for the people of the United States and the Orthodox faithful in the Midwest in particular. This is the type of occasion when even our faith comes under close scrutiny.
First, we heard about the passing away of Jaison Jacob, Detroit. Jason was 31; he was married just six months ago. It was a fairy tale wedding. They were just settling down with their lives. His wife Soni just got a job in Detroit. Then, without any warning, disaster struck.
I know Jaison from his childhood. His father, Dr. P.O. Jacob, and his mother,
Susamma Jacob, are the backbone of St. Thomas Orthodox Church in Detroit,
Michigan. I am privileged to call them my best friends. Jaison and his dad,
built the alter in the new church. Jaison was very active in the youth group. He
was a born leader. His sister, Dr. Jessy, was also very active in the church and
continue the tradition after her marriage to Jobin, a member of St. Paul's
Syriac Orthodox Church in Philadelphia. In short, Jaison and his family had been
a model Christian family in all they did.
Jaison died on Monday, December 10. The exact medical cause of his death is unknown. He was on ventilator for 2 weeks after being admitted complaining of chest pain. His funeral was on Saturday, December 15. It was heart breaking to see his parents and wife of 6 months crying all the way from the church to the cemetery. What can we say to console them? The whole church, packed with his friends, was in shock. No body could believe that this active youngster, whose marriage was just a few months ago, is gone for ever. His mother, sobbing and repeating, "why are you leaving us, monae," reminded me of St. Mary, beating her hands on her chest and crying about Jesus on Good Friday as we go on the first procession. The pain and agony of the parents crying over their dead child has no equal in the suffering scale in my opinion. Soni, unable to compose herself, covered her whole head and body in a dark cloth so no one will see her in her mourning.
Many are asking "why God?"
Then we heard about the senseless killing of 20 kindergarten children and 6 adults in a mass murder in Connecticut on Friday, December 14. The gunman pointed at the gun on his mother and killed her before going out on the rampage.
Ever since we heard the news, we've all been struggling to deal with it. No one seems to have an answer.
A teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, asked the question:
"Who would do this to our poor little babies?"
The governor of Connecticut seems to have answered it this way:
"Evil visited this community today."
Perhaps Max Lacado said it best, in a prayer he wrote on Friday afternoon:
"Dear Jesus, It's a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark."
Atheists will say that this shows that God is not there; a loving God will not allow these innocent babies to be slaughtered.
What happened in Newtown, CT, was pure evil, undiluted and Satanic. What else do
you call it when a man takes a rifle, kills his mother, then kills 20 innocent
schoolchildren and six adults?
Msgr. Charles Pope commented about suffering brought by evil:
God didn't create evil. We did. God created us in his image. But he also gave us free will. We can choose good or evil. That is our choice. God didn't have anything to do with it.
An entire chapter of the Bible is dedicated to the story of Cain, the first recorded murderer. From the very beginning God wanted us to be aware of the consequences of the fall of man. We who were made "in the Image of God" are now fallen, our natures are corrupted, we now "know good and evil" but from the vantage point of evil. We have dual natures - good and evil.
Imagine Adam and Eve's horror at what their sin had wrought, as they beheld the lifeless body of their son Abel, and listened to the self-serving rationalizations of Cain. They had brought this about. This new, insecure, deadly world of strife and murder they now lived in, came about as a direct result of their sin, and they knew it.
Fortunately, God had a plan to save the fallen world. That was through messiah and the cross in Calvary. God so loved us that he sent his only begotten son to the world.
For many, the agony of Newtown was confounded by the fact that this happened during the joyous season of Christmas. It would be horrific at any time of the year, but it somehow seems magnified during this happy season.
But our church, on December 27, celebrates the killing of the innocent children in Bethlehem. Herod, another evil man, felt threatened by the birth of "King of Jews," orders the massacre of all children under 2 years of age. Matthew 2:18 quotes fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy thus:
Jesus was saved from the slaughter because an angel told Joseph to take the family to Egypt. This brings in new questions. Dr. Ray Pritchard asked that in this context:
God has a purpose in everything he does. Jesus incarnated with a mission. That mission cannot be accomplished if he dies at the hands of Herod. It was important to save the child from the hands of Herod so that the Jesus can be sacrificed on Calvary for the sins of mankind, reversing the fall of mankind started in Eden. So, although, Jesus, the infant, was saved from death in Bethlehem, God didn't save Jesus, the adult, from the cross 33 years later. St. Mary didn't cry like Rachel did in Bethlehem; but she did 30 plus years later at the foot of the cross in Calvary. A sphere pierced her heart as Simeon prophesied.
God was not insensitive to the suffering of the innocent children in Bethlehem. Christ did not exempt himself from the suffering. He suffered mightily and unjustly.
Jesus said we are going to have difficulties in our lives. The difference is that Jesus is with us when we go through trials and tribulations in this world. He is with us when we laugh as well as when we cry. In fact, just like He did when Mary cried at the grave of Lazarus, He cries with us when we cry. He is with us and for us. While we go through tough times in our lives, let us remember that Jesus has overcame the world so we can too.
Psalm 68:19 declares, "Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation." He is with us and has not forgotten us. Moreover, he alone is our hope.
Psalm 23:4 points out that even in Death's valley, God is with us; we need not fear. Furthermore, as the psalmist points out in Psalm 23:6, he shall dwell with the Lord forever. There is hope beyond the grave. This, of course, is the great promise for all of us who believe in Christ.
Lastly, God will deal with the injustices and terrors of our world. Romans 12:19 reminds us that vengeance belongs to the Lord; he will right all wrongs and judge those who inflict pain. The people who do evil will have to answer to God on His second coming.
We are not alone. We are in good company.
"Fear not, child of God. No one knows what a day may bring. Who knows if we will all make it through this week? But our God is faithful to keep every one of his promises. Nothing can happen to us except it first pass through the hands of a loving God. If your way is dark, keep on believing. When your furnace time is over, you will come forth as gold."
Let us pray.
Glory to the father, the son and Holy Spirit; one true God.
We are gathered here today with our hearts saddened hearing about the passing away of Barnabas Thirumeni in Kerala, Jaison in Detroit and the 26 innocent people in Connecticut including 20 children.
We know that you have a plan for everything and we pray that Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We know that this is the Season of Giving. We remember the biggest gift of all - your sending your only begotten son so that we can be saved from eternal damnation.
We know that, although we are here to celebrate the birth of your son in Bethlehem, the Christmas really is about the ultimate death of your son on the cross to save us. That was the only purpose for the birth of the savior - to die on the cross and the eventual triumph over the death by His resurrection.
So, we know that His birth and His death are inseparable. Even the first Christmas was followed immediately by the slaughter of innocent children by Herod.
Help us and people throughout the world to understand that we are all your children. We are all brothers and sisters created in your image and likeness. Guide us to live in harmony with one another, respectful of each other.
Give us the wisdom to be obedient to you, trust in you and respect others.
Be with us today as we celebrate your love the immensity of which cannot be explained or fathomed by us. Grant us the eternal peace Jesus has promised us.
In Jesus' name we pray.
Malankara World has tons of information about Suffering in the Malankara World Special Supplement on Suffering. We recommend the following articles, in particular, that are relevant to the current issue:
This article is adapted from an opening address and prayer delivered by Dr. Jacob Mathew at Columbus, Ohio during the OMCC Christmas Program on Sunday, December 16, 2012.]
This Sunday in Church
Sunday before Christmas
Before Holy Qurbana
This Week's Features
Scripture: Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23
Both Matthew 1 and Luke 3 contain genealogies of Jesus. But there is one problem--they are different. Luke's genealogy starts at Adam and goes to David. Matthew's genealogy starts at Abraham and goes to David. When the genealogies arrive at David, they split with David's sons: Nathan (Mary's side?) and Solomon (Joseph's side).
There are differences of opinion with two main options being offered. The first is that one genealogy is for Mary and the other is for Joseph. It was customary to mention the genealogy through the father even though it was clearly known that it was through Mary.
"The second thing is that this genealogy differs in significant ways from the genealogy in Matthew. Why? Most Bible scholars believe that Luke gives the genealogy of Mary (who was also of the royal Davidic line), while Matthew traces the family of Joseph. Thus by both His mother and His earthly father, Jesus had a right to the throne of Israel." 1
"Luke paused from his narrative to give Christ's genealogy. While Matthew traced Christ's lineage through Joseph, his legal father (see Matt. 1:1–17), Luke traced it through Mary, beginning with Mary's father, Heli. (Men in ancient times often regarded their sons-in-law as their own sons.) The lineages of Mary and Joseph converge at King David (compare 3:31 with Matt. 1:6). 2
"Those who take the latter opinion, that we have here the line of Mary, as in Matthew that of Joseph - here His real, there His reputed line - explain the statement about Joseph, that hewas "the son of Hell," to mean that he was his son-in-law, as the husband of his daughter Mary (as in Ru 1:11, 12), and believe that Joseph's name is only introduced instead of Mary's, in conformity with the Jewish custom in such tables. Perhaps this view is attended with fewest difficulties, as it certainly is the best supported." 3
Some critics may not accept this explanation and it is not without its problems.
"The theory that Luke really gives us the family tree of Mary rather than of Joseph is improbable. The theory with least difficulties is that Matthew gives the descendants of David down the royal line (i.e. who was heir to the throne at any given time), but Luke gives the particular line to which Joseph belonged. 4
The Bible should be interpreted in the context of its literary style, culture, and history. Breaking up genealogies into male and female representations was acceptable in the ancient Near East culture since it was often impolite to speak of women without proper conditions being met: male presence, etc. Therefore, one genealogy might be of Mary and the other of Joseph--even though both mention Joseph. In other words, the Mary geneaology was counted "in" Joseph and under his headship.
I find it difficult to accept that those who collected the books of the New Testament, and who believed it was inerrant, were unaware of this blatant differentiation in genealogies. They must have understood what the historical/cultural context was and had no problem with it. Even though we cannot ascertain at this time a precise explanation does not mean one isn't forthcoming. After all, archaeological discovers clear up Bible "difficulties" on a regular basis. But, back to our discussion.
Notice that Luke starts with Mary and goes backwards to Adam. Matthew starts with Abraham and goes forward to Joseph. The intents of the genealogies were obviously different which is clearly seen in their styles. Luke was not written to the Jews, Matthew was. Therefore, Matthew would carry the legal line (from Abraham through David) and Luke the biological one (from Adam through David). Also, notice that Luke's first three chapters mention Mary eleven times; hence, the genealogy from her. Fourth, notice Luke 3:23, "And when He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being supposedly the son of Joseph, the son of Eli," This designation "supposedly" seems to signify the Marian genealogy since it seems to indicate that Jesus is not the biological son of Joseph.
Finally, in the Joseph genealogy is a man named Jeconiah. God cursed Jeconiah
(also called Coniah), stating that no descendant of his would ever sit on the
throne of David, "For no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the
throne of David or ruling again in Judah," (Jer. 22:30). But Jesus, of course,
will sit on the throne in the heavenly kingdom. The point is that Jesus is not a
biological descendant of Jeconiah, but through the other lineage -- that of
Mary. Hence, the prophetic curse upon Jeconiah stands inviolate. But, the legal
adoption of Jesus by Joseph reckoned the legal rights of Joseph to Jesus as a
son, not the biological curse. This is why we need two genealogies: one of Mary
(the actually biological line according to prophecy), and the legal line through
1. Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher's commentary. Includes index. (650). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
2. Willmington, H. L. (1997). Willmington's Bible handbook (582). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.
3. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Lk 3:23). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
4. Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Lk 3:23–38). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.
The pre-Christmas Cycle has six Sundays, which all focus on the unfolding revelation of the Birth of the Messiah. This is done in the context of the immediate family of Jesus, centering on Mary and Joseph (Matthew 1, 2; Luke 1, 2). This is certainly in line with the Antiochene emphasis on the humanity of Jesus and its appreciation of the historical aspect of Scripture. The greatest Announcement, of course, is that of the angels on Christmas.
There are one or two Sundays after Christmas (depending upon the day of the week that Christmas occurs), one of which is always celebrated: the Finding in the Temple. On 1 January the liturgical commemoration is Feast of the Circumcision (Naming) of the Child Jesus, with a second commemoration of the common Eastern observance of Saint Basil.
The Sundays of this Season are:
Announcement to Zechariah
Announcement to the Virgin Mary
Visitation to Elizabeth
Birth of John the Baptizer
Revelation to Joseph
The Finding in the Temple
In celebrating the Finding in the Temple (Sunday after Christmas) the Orthodox Church uses the 3rd Infancy Narrative of Luke (chapter 2) to parallel closely the Gospel development of Jesus' own growth. He is seen in the Temple, recognizing his true "Father" (his divine Origin) and preparing himself for his Baptism and public life. In addition, Joseph disappears from all the Gospel narratives: Joseph's earthly fathering is done, and Jesus will now proclaim the heavenly Father. The Twelve Days of Christmas take us to the Feast of the Epiphany (Theophany).
Season of Epiphany (in Syriac this feast is called Denho)
Taking the Baptism of Jesus (6 January) as the model, the Orthodox Church celebrates our new life of Baptism and Chrismation in this Season. In Syriac it is called denho. For some Syriac Churches, this season is the traditional time of reception of catechumens into the Church. But for all Syriac Christians, denho is a time to reflect on our baptism. During the first three days following the third Sunday before the Great Lent (Monday-Wednesday) [ Sixth Week of Epiphany in case of the Maronite Church] observes "Nineveh Days" or 3-Day Lent. These three days are penitential and serve to anticipate the Season of Great Lent. In one form or another, these days are observed by all the Syriac Churches, East and West.
(Adapted from R. Dom Bartholomew Leon, OSB, Saint Rafka Mission, Greenville, SC)
Scripture: Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38
These two chapters, both giving genealogies of Jesus, at first appear to be contradictory. Actually, however, they complement each other.
The genealogy in Matthew 1 is clearly that of Joseph, Mary's husband. Matthew records it for legal purposes. He is writing to prove to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah, and the Jews' custom in keeping records is to trace descent through the father. Legally, the Jews of Jesus' day looked on Jesus as a son of Joseph (John 6:42). Also, Joseph's lineage is given to emphasize the fact that Jesus had been born of a virgin. Because of a curse that God placed on one of Joseph's ancestors, Jesus could never sit upon the throne of David if Joseph had been His natural father.
Jechonias (Matthew 1:11-12), called Coniah in Jeremiah 22:24-30, was so evil God cursed him and his descendants, saying, "Write this man down as childless, . . . for none of his descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah" (verse 30). Jeconiah, as his name is spelled in the Old Testament, had children (I Chronicles 3:17), but he was childless insofar as none of his descendants ruled as king over Judah.
How, then, could Jesus be a descendant of David and qualify to sit on the throne? Enter the genealogy in Luke 3, which is Mary's. According to Jewish usage, Mary's ancestry is given in her husband's name. The original Greek merely says Joseph was "of Heli" or Eli (verse 23). In fact, since Joseph's father is said to be Jacob in Matthew 1:16, Heli is most probably Mary's father. Joseph, then, is his son-in-law.
Unlike Joseph's lineage, there was no block in Mary's genealogy to Jesus sitting on the throne of David. Mary's descent from David comes through his son Nathan, not Solomon or one of David's other children (Luke 3:31). To fulfill His promise to establish David's throne forever, God honored Nathan by making him the ancestor of the promised King who would sit on David's throne throughout eternity (Luke 1:31-33).
But how could Mary transmit David's royal inheritance - the right to the throne - to her Son, since all inheritances had to pass through the male line? According to Israel's law, when a daughter is the only heir, she can inherit her father's possessions and rights if she marries within her own tribe (Numbers 27:1-8; 36:6-8). There is no record that Mary had any brothers to inherit her father's possessions and rights. Thus, Joseph became Heli's heir by marriage to Mary, inheriting the right to rule on David's throne, even over Judah. This right then passed on to Jesus.
Both genealogies had to be recorded to establish Christ's right to rule on David's throne. Joseph's genealogy shows that Christ was a legal descendant of Jeconiah and thus legally could not sit on the throne of David in the nation Judah by inheriting the right solely through Joseph.
Further, the genealogies prove the virgin birth: The curse on Jeconiah's line would have passed on to Christ if He were Joseph's natural son, but He was not - He was the Son of God the Father, begotten by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus was Mary's son descended from Nathan. Jesus can inherit rule over Judah because of Mary's marriage to Joseph, whose genealogy shows he was Heli's son-in-law.
Source: Church of the Great God
This is not your ordinary family tree! The ancient Jews poured over their Scriptures, looking for
hints and clues that would reveal the identity of the Messiah to come. Today,
we will pour over Matthew's genealogy, looking for hints and clues that reveal the identity of
the Messiah who has come. Matthew's genealogy shows us Christ in at least three ways:
We will cover the first point here. This is going to be rigorous Bible study – but a deeper knowledge of the Bible is exactly what the church needs today!! If we're going to understand who Jesus is, we need to understand the meaning of this genealogy.
How does Matthew's genealogy tell the story of Israel, as it comes to a climax in Jesus Christ?
We have to consider the exquisite details of Matthew's opening section.
"The book of the genesis of Jesus Christ…."
Matthew is introducing Jesus (= Joshua) Christ (= priest/king). His name shows us something of his identity as the conquering priest-king, but it's only a start.
These opening words ("biblos geneseos") point us back to the book of Genesis. Matthew is writing a new Genesis because Jesus is bringing in a new creation. The phrase itself shows up in Genesis 2:1 and 5:1 to introduce descendants. Here, it introduces ancestors…unless Matthew has a few theological tricks up his sleeve. By unconventionally placing Jesus at the head and end of his own genealogy he is subtly implying that Jesus is more than a mere man. He is alpha and omega, first and last, Israel's creator and Israel's hope, Israel's root and branch (cf. Isa. 11). He is both Israel and Israel's God, fully human and fully divine.
"…son of David, son of Abraham…"
David and Abraham -- these are two of the most important figures in the Old Testament because God made key promises to them. God promised land (and ultimately the world) to Abraham and he promised an everlasting global kingdom to David 9note how the promises to each dovetail). These promises remained unfulfilled in Israel's history, and after the exile even looked unfulfillable. But Matthew is saying that these hopes are now being realized in coming of Jesus. God is making good on the ancient covenant pledges!
How is Jesus the son of David? He is the Greater Solomon, the Wisdom of God in human form, the one who builds the temple (= the church), and the one who reigns over the nations forever (2 Sam 7, Ps. 89, etc.). He is Great David's Greater Son, the king Israel hoped in and hoped for. How is Jesus the son of Abraham? He is the greater Isaac, born of the Spirit to a "barren" woman (= virginal conception), the one who undergoes death and resurrection in order to turn curse to blessing for all peoples (cf. Gen. 22). Jesus does not come from this line so much as he is given to this line…and he given in order that he might give himself in death as the ultimate sacrifice. His death overturns the curse and brings blessing to all the families of the earth (Gen. 12).
"Abraham begot Isaac…of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ."
The fact that Matthew begins his book with a genealogy links his gospel with Old Testament books that also start with genealogies, namely Ezra and Chronicles. In fact, Matthew is writing a new Chronicles, seen in the fact that he ends his gospel with a decree (= the Great Commission) that echoes Cyrus' decree at the end of 2 Chronicles. Chronicles covers the whole history of Israel; the gospel of Matthew retraces all of Israel's history in Jesus, showing that he fulfills Israel's true purposes. Jesus is Israel done right. Chronicles shows that Israel served God by building his house in Jerusalem; Matthew shows that the church serves God by building him a "house" as the nations are discipled. Matthew is modeled on the literary plan of Chronicles for theological reasons, to show Jesus and his disciples begin a new Israel, a new humanity, a new history, the true "returned from exile" community. Of course, also implicit in this typology is Jesus as the new Moses/Cyrus and the church as the people of the new exodus.
"So are all the generations…are fourteen generations"
Further, Matthew breaks up his genealogy into three blocks. Three is the number of the Trinity, and the blocks correspond to the Father (= Abraham), the Son (= David), and the Spirit (= the age of the prophets). Matthew has woven a Trinitarian pattern into his genealogical narrative. Father, Son, and Spirit are all active in this gospel to bring about the fulfillment of the promises.
Another way to look at this is to consider the exile/exodus pattern built into the structure of the genealogy. Israel's exile in 605 B. C. seemed to jeopardize God's promises, as the nation lost both land and kingdom. Strangely, Matthew completely ignores the nation's homecoming in 536 B. C., when Israelites returned to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem. But Matthew is showing us that that return from exile was only a shadow of the real return, which takes place in Jesus. Ezra, one of the key books describing the return from exile, opens with a genealogy. Matthew is writing a new Ezra because the new and true exodus is taking place.
Even the Old Testament suggests that the return from exile in 536 B. C. was not complete. Israel's exile ended geographically, but not spiritually. And that's because the real exile began not in 605 B. C., but when Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden and the presence of God in Genesis 3. Ezra acknowledges this deeper reality when says "we are still slaves" (Ezra 9) even after the reconstruction project has been underway for quite some time.
Daniel 9 seems to imply that the exile is being stretched out 490 more years (though the dates are hard to place because of our limited historical knowledge). We sing about this in "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," which speaks of Israel's "lonely exile" continuing "until the Son of God appear." So Matthew is describing Jesus as a new Moses accomplishing the new exodus the prophets promised. In him, fellowship with God is being restored and access to the new Eden secured.
Finally, Matthew tells the story of God's people by incorporating some strange features into his genealogy. In particular note the four women, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba Matthew flags. The point is not that these women are sinners for whom Jesus came (though that is true); that point is made sufficiently well by the wicked men named in the genealogy. Besides that, these four women are generally vindicated, at least compared to the men they had to deal with. Rather, the point is that each of these women was an outsider in some way. All four of them have Gentile connections, three by birth, and one by marriage. Their "righteous scandals" all foreshadow the fifth woman in the genealogy, Mary, who creates a scandal of her own when turns up pregnant out of wedlock (though it is in a righteous way, as Joseph discovers). Jesus has come to include the outsider, and his family history already foreshadowed that.
What's the point then? Jesus came for insiders as well as outsiders. Anyone can be included in Jesus' family tree. It does not matter where we come from, what we've done, or what we've failed to do. Jesus himself is a "mudblood." But he will not be ashamed to call us his brothers if we will come to him in faith and repentance. In his kingdom, kings and prostitutes, rich and poor, Jews and gentiles, all come together in one family. Matthew wants to present Jesus as the King of the Jews, yes, but more than that, he is showing us that Jesus is King of the world. Perhaps four women are included because four is the number of the creation as whole (e.g., the four corners of the world, the four winds, four directions [cf. Matt. 8:11f], etc.).
It's so fitting that different countries and cultures have developed their own Christmas customs to celebrate the birth of the Savior. My kids have a book that looks at the way children celebrate Christmas all over the world. Christianity is not just a Western religion, or white man's religion, or upper middle class religion. It is for everyone in all times and places. It is "catholic" – open to anyone, from anywhere. Again, Matthew's gospel is something of a gospel invitation: no matter your background, what you've done, or failed to do, you can enter into this family by faith if you so desire.
The inclusion of these Gentile women in Jesus' geneaology is a remarkable sign of expansive grace. Geneaologies in the ancient world were generally used to prove one's purity (and ultimately to prove one's worth, status, and identity). For example, Herod the Great tried to keep his genealogy secret because he was a Jew/Edomite mix, and knew that Gentile blood could compromise his claim to the throne. A person's genealogy was like his resume, and just as people are tempted to lie on their resumes today, so they lied about their genealogies back then. The fact that woman from outside the Jewish circle would be given such a place of prominence shows that Jesus is standing the usual badges of worth on their heads.
It is interesting that there are no more genealogies in the Bible after Jesus. Biblical genealogical record keeping comes to an end with Jesus. Genealogies are all over the OT, but we don't have genealogies for John or Peter, or any of the apostles. This is a sign to us: being a true Jew, a member of Jesus' family, is not a matter of blood, but faith. The question, 'Who is Israel?" can not be answered by a biological genealogy. Consider John the Baptist in Matt. 3:9: "Do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'…" A genealogical record is not enough. Your gene pool is no automatic guarantee of god's blessing. Jesus redefined the family in Mark 2:33ff: "Who is my mother, or my brothers?...Whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and mother."
by Steve Weaver
If I were to take a survey of everyone here this morning and were to ask "What is your favorite text of Scripture?" probably no one would say, "Matthew 1:1-17." Instead we are more likely to ask, "Why would Matthew begin his account of the life of Christ with a boring genealogy?" I want to suggest this morning that this text is one of the most important passages in the Bible! Matthew 1:1-17 is one of the most important passages in the Bible because it is the thread that binds together the Old and New Testaments. In fact, this text is essential to properly understand the meaning of the Old Testament. One commentator called this text "a compressed retelling of the Old Testament story" (John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew NIGTC, 34).
Matthew carefully links the second part of the Bible with the first by citing at 61 direct quotes (Mark has 31, Luke 26, and John 16) and many other allusions from the Old Testament. Matthew uses the phrase, "to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet" ten times in his book. The gospel writer clearly identifies Jesus as the promised and long awaited Messiah. The evidence presented is overwhelming. Jesus is clearly presented as the fulfillment of all that the prophets of old were longing for.
The book of Matthew opens with the genealogy of the King. Every king has to have a royal lineage because his ancestry is the most important thing about him. Kings have to be in the regal line in order to qualify to be on the throne. Matthew begins with a family tree that traces the right of Jesus to reign. These opening verses are very important because Jewish people, who made up Matthew's audience, were very interested in a person's genealogy.
The New Testament rests upon the accuracy of this genealogy because it establishes the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is of the line of Abraham and of the line of David. Both are very important. The line of Abraham places Him in the nation, and the line of David puts Him on the throne - He is in that royal line. The genealogies were very important to the nation Israel, and through them it could be established whether a person had a legitimate claim to a particular line. For example, when Israel returned from the captivity, we find in the Book of Ezra, "These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood" (Ezra 2:62). It was possible in Ezra's day to check the register of the tribe of Levi and remove those who made a false claim.
Matthew is very purposeful in his genealogy. It is arranged in three sections of fourteen. One reason for this was not doubt to aid in memorization in a mostly oral society. In order to get his genealogy into these three sections of fourteen names each, Matthew omits four of the kings who were cursed in the Old Testament from the second section. Matthew draws on the genealogies of Ruth 4:18-22 and 1 Chronicles 3:10-19 while adding the information from the intertestamental period. As for the reconciliation between the Matthean and Lukan genealogies, I believe that Matthew provides the royal lineage and Luke records the physical ancestry of Joseph.
A second reason for Matthew's arrangement of his genealogy of Christ into three sets of fourteen is to highlight the importance of David in this genealogy. The numeric value of the Hebrew name David is 14. This number is derived by adding the numeric values for the Hebrew equivalents of the consonants DWD (Hebrew originally had no vowel points) "D" = 4, "W" = 6, and "D" = 4. This fact would have been known by the first century Jewish reader and Matthew's deliberate ordering of his genealogy around the number 14 would have highlighted the importance of King David in the genealogy of Jesus.
The first sentence of the Gospel of Matthew introduces not only this genealogy, but the entire gospel. This sentence answers the question of: What is this book about? Answer: Jesus. And: Who is this Jesus? This sentence tells you almost everything you need to know about the identity of Jesus. The genealogy that follows is given by Matthew to prove the validity of what Matthew claims in this first sentence. Let's read this genealogy and see together exactly who Matthew claims that Jesus really is.
I. Jesus is the New Adam
The first two words of this verse in the Greek are Matthew 1:1 Biblos geneseos which are translated as "The book of the genealogy" or "generation". They could also be translated as "The book of Genesis." Matthew deliberately parallels the beginning of the story of Jesus with the first book of the Bible. The exact same phrase is used in Genesis 2:4 and 5:1. In 2:4 ("This are the generations of the heavens and of the earth"), it is a summary statement of the preceding account of the creation of the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1. But the direct parallel which I believe Matthew has in mind and that he wants to remind his Jewish audience of when he pens these words is found in Genesis 5:1 where it is written: "This is the book of the genealogy of Adam." Matthew wants us to understand that with the coming of Jesus there is a new Genesis, a new beginning, a new Adam! But whereas Genesis 5:1 says that God created Adam in the likeness of God. Matthew, by listing the physical ancestry of Jesus, says that God has come in the likeness of man. Paul likewise draws this parallel in 1 Corinthians 15:45 when he says, "'The first man Adam became a living being.' The last Adam became a life-giving spirit."
II. Jesus is the Savior
The very name Jesus Yeshua or "Joshua" means "Jehovah is salvation"! This is highlighted in the birth narrative when we are told that the angel has instructed Joseph and Mary to name the child Jesus "for He shall save His people from their sins" (v. 21). Jesus came for a purpose and that purpose was to save sinners. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:15, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Are you a sinner? Then rejoice that Christ came to save sinners! Next week's sermon will go into more detail about the significance of Jesus' name.
III. Jesus is the Christ
This was not Jesus' last name! It is a title meaning the "anointed one." In the Old Testament kings, prophets and kings were all anointed. It is fitting then that Jesus, the ultimate prophet, priest and king, would be known as the anointed One. He is the prophet who Moses said would come and the ultimate lawgiver who is able to produce obedience in His people (Deut 18:15). He is the king to whom every knee shall bow. But He is the priest who offered not the blood of bulls and goats but His own blood on the cross of Calvary. Much more could be said about the Messianic expectations associated with the term Christ. Some of those expectations are outlined in the next point.
IV. Jesus is the Son of David
In 2 Samuel 7 we first learn that this coming one will be a Descendent of King David himself. There were hints of the Deliverer's royal nature before this in the prophetic word from Jacob to Judah in Genesis 49:8-10.
Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father's children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion's whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
Some might have thought that David himself was the fulfillment of this prophecy, but in 2 Samuel 7:12-14 the prophet Nathan delivers this word from God to David near the end of his life:
When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. (13) He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (14) I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.
One who can truly be called the Son of the Father (see Hebrews 1:5) will rule forever! This promise to David is expanded upon by the Old Testament prophets. Isaiah writes in Isaiah 9:6-7,
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.
Throughout the Old Testament and the Intertestamental period, the expectations for a Messiah increased! The expectation was for a mighty deliverer. A mighty warrior, like King David who would come and defeat their oppressors. Matthew is here identifying that Jesus is exactly that kind of Messiah. He is the "Son of David," a mighty Warrior-King. But this mighty Warrior-King Messiah was also the Suffering Servant Messiah. In Christ both strands of Messianic prophecy converge. The first century Jew could not comprehend how the mighty King of Isaiah 9:6-7 could also be the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, but Matthew shows us how. As Jesus stood before Pilate, Matthew records him asking, "Are you the king of the Jews?" to which Jesus replied, "It is as you say." (27:11). Matthew also records the words of the mocking soldiers as they jeered, "Hail, King of the Jews!" (27:29).
Finally, Matthew shows how the Davidic King is also the Suffering Servant by recording the words which were nailed like Jesus to the cross: "This is Jesus the King of the Jews." (27:37). Matthew shows us that the only way that Jesus could be the mighty Warrior-King who defeats the powers of sin and death, was to become the Suffering Servant who dies in the place of guilty rebels. This is Jesus Christ, the Son of David.
V. Jesus is the Son of Abraham
Of course as the descendant of David, Jesus would also have to be a descendant of Abraham. But Matthew's point is more than to merely point out Jesus' Jewishness but rather to identify Him with the promise made to Abraham regarding his Seed. In Genesis 12:1-3, God promised then Abram: "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you … and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." After being prepared to offer his son Isaac, Abraham was again promised by God in Genesis 22:18 that "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed." This promise was repeated again to Abraham's son, Isaac in Genesis 26:4, "And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed." " The apostle Paul also understood Jesus to be the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that through his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed in Galatians 3:16. There he plainly states,
Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ.
Abraham's seed is the Lord Jesus Christ!
Three Important Lessons from this Genealogy:
The Overruling Providence of God
Again and again in this genealogy we see how the purposes of God often go counter to the expectations of man. Abraham is chosen out of all the people on earth to be the Father of the nation through whom the Messiah would come. Isaac, the child of God's provision, was chosen to continue that line and not Ishmael, the child of man's scheming. Jacob, and not the first-born Esau continues the line. Judah, not the first-born Reuben, or the more well-known Joseph, is included in the line of the Messiah-King. Tamar's twin sons: Perez and Zerah are both listed in the genealogy, but only Perez is a part of the line of Jesus indicating once again God's sovereign purposes. David himself was not the oldest in his family or the one which Samuel thought looked the most regal, but he was God's choice. Again and again this genealogy highlights the divine prerogative of God in the outworking of human history.
Another way in which God's overruling providence is seen is in the case of the curse upon King Jeconiah. God had pronounced a curse upon the lineage of Jeconiah. According to Jeremiah 22:24-30, none of Jeconiah's physical descendants would ever sit upon the throne in Israel. It is only because of the virgin birth that Jesus was able to escape the consequences of this course. Since Jesus was not physically descended from Jeconiah, he remains a legal heir to the throne of David.
In a similar way, all humanity was under a curse. In the Garden of Eden, Adam lost the right for a human being to rule on the earth, but Jesus was virgin born and thus escaped the effect of the curse upon the human race while maintaining His human nature. Jesus alone is heir to both the throne of Adam and David!
The Overwhelming Grace of God
Five women are included in this genealogy. This is very unusual. Most genealogies only contained the name of men. Remember the Pharisee's daily prayer that thanked God that they were neither a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. Of the five women contained, four were probably Gentiles (Rahab, Ruth, Tamar, and Bathesheba). At least three were guilty of sexual immorality (Rahab the harlot, Tamar the incestuous prostitute, Bathsheba the adulteress, and Matthew possibly means to include Ruth who as a Moabite was a descendent of the incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughter).
I heard of a man who spent $500 to obtain his genealogy, then $2,500 to suppress it! But there is no suppression in the genealogy of Jesus. The inclusion of these women shows that the gospel of grace provided through their descendent Jesus would be for all genders, all races and all backgrounds. The gospel is for both male and female, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, even the vilest of sinners Jesus can and will save. The inclusion of these women in the genealogy of our Lord shows the overwhelming grace of God.
The Overarching Promise of God
Beginning in Genesis 3:15 God had promised that one day the "Seed of the woman" would come and crush the head of the serpent. That promise was expanded upon to Abraham when he is told by God that through his descendent all the nations of the earth would be blessed. This promise was repeated to Isaac, Jacob, and Judah. The promise was extended to King David when he was told that one of his descendants would sit enthroned as King forever. This promise is expanded upon through the prophet Isaiah to include the virgin birth and Micah to describe the place of the birth as Bethlehem. This is the main message of this genealogy by Matthew. God has kept His Word. He has sent the long promised Messiah who is the Seed of the Woman, the Seed of Abraham, and the Seed of David. The true King has come!
These themes, which continue throughout the book of Matthew, all come together once again in the closing verses of the gospel. In these final verses, Matthew has the virgin born Son of God declaring His universal authority as the Davidic King and His purpose to have "disciples of all the nations" as the Abrahamic Heir.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. Matthew 28:18-20
by Carl Olson
A Scriptural Reflection on the Last Sunday of Advent
The readings for this fourth Sunday (and final day) of Advent emphasize the lowly origins of Jesus - both geographical and familial - and the loving sacrificial work that He, as Lord and Savior, would undertake for the sake of Israel and the entire human race.
The ascent from lowliness to greatness via the startling path of sacrifice is hinted at in the reading from the prophet Micah. His message followed a basic pattern similar to that of his contemporary Isaiah: the announcement of judgment due to the rejection of God’s law, the prophecy of a restored Zion, and an exhortation to a spiritual renewal based in trust in God’s mercy.
The Messiah, the future ruler of Israel, will come from the little town of Bethlehem, the city of David; centuries later this prophesy is emphasized in Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 2:5-6). This promise echoes the covenantal vows made to King David, including the eternal establishment of his house, throne, and kingdom (2 Sam 7:11-13, 16). There is also a reference to the mother of this ruler in Israel, an identification fully expressed and realized in the Gospel reading.
"He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock", states Micah. So, too, the Psalmist depicts the coming Messiah as the "shepherd of Israel" who comes from the throne of God to save His people. Psalm 80 is a song of lament in the wake of a military defeat, possibly involving the capture of the Temple in sixth century B.C. Its author asks God to remember His people - "this vine" - and have mercy on them. He humbly acknowledges that only the Lord, by taking merciful initiative, can save His people by turning His face to them.
The Epistle reading is a reminder that the divine initiative in the work of salvation centers on the Son’s desire to fulfill the will of the Father. "By his loving obedience to the Father," states the Catechis of the Catholic Church, "‘unto death, even death on a cross’ (Phil 2:8), Jesus fulfils the atoning mission (cf. Is 53:10) of the suffering Servant, who will ‘make many righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities’ (Is 53:11; cf. Rom 5:19)" (CCC 623).
Drawing from Psalm 40, the Son twice declares: "Behold, I come to do your will." This is the perfect expression of divine love, the same divine love that fills those who have been baptized into the Son because of the sacrificial gift of His body on the cross (cf. Rom 6:3-4). Again, glory does not come through merely external acts or proud aspirations, but from humility before God, obedience to His divine will, and gratitude for the gift of His life.
In the final Gospel reading of Advent, Luke depicts two mothers-to-be praising God for His blessings and marveling at His mysterious ways. The emphasis on obedience and faith that marks today’s readings reaches a climax in the person of the young Jewish virgin. "The Virgin Mary," the Catechism teaches, "most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith" (CCC 148; cf. CCC 144). It is this faith that is recognized by Mary’s relative, Elizabeth, when the pregnant Mother of God visits her: "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."
Elizabeth’s recognition of her Lord in the womb of Mary is dramatic and, at the same time, almost matter-of-fact in tone. The title "Lord" is usually meant for God (see Luke 1:6, 9, 11, 15), and it is applied to Jesus often throughout Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, knows that Mary’s child is special and that His life will have a significance surpassing that of her son. Earlier, in verse 15, her husband, Zechariah, had been told that John would "be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb." John’s leaping for joy in the womb is evidence of this; the precursor of Jesus announced the presence of the Messiah even before either had been born.
This marks a fitting conclusion to the season of Advent: humble praise and joyful anticipation on the cusp of the Nativity, when the God of Israel joins history and humanity as the Incarnate Son of God.
Source: Insight Scoop. Originally published in a slightly different form in the December 24, 2006, edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.
During the Liturgical Season of Advent, we walk through the great events of Christian history so as to inculcate them into our daily lives and offer their promise to the whole world. During Advent we are invited through our liturgical readings and practices, to clear away all that entangles us and open a space in our hearts, our homes, our relationships and our lives, for Love Incarnate to be born again. This is the season of lent and prayer. We are to spend part of our days reflecting and meditating on the events leading to the incarnation of our Lord, God's plan for redemption of mankind and the promise of His second coming.
To keep the Advent season in focus, Malankara World has developed a special supplement with daily reflections and bible readings. You are urged to read the daily meditations; reflect on those and pray. The season is also one of unconditional service. So, there are activities you can do on each day to make out advent meaningful. Please visit the MW Advent Supplement here:
Malankara World Christmas Supplement
by Br. James Brent, O.P.
The Bridegroom Whispers
To what shall we compare the Fourth Sunday of Advent? It is like a bridegroom whispering in the ear of his bride a promise of things delightful and near. In the liturgy of the Fourth Sunday, Christ whispers into the ear of His Church the things of Christmas. And with what desire does the bride desire them!
Our Lord always tends to arouse within us desires for things that are beyond us. He makes our hearts thirsty, yet for a drink that the earth does not provide. He makes our souls hungry, yet for a food that grows in no earthly field. He makes us long for a happiness, a goodness, a life, a truth, a joy, and a peace that surpass all our experience and all our powers to obtain. These are the things of Christmas.
What is it like to hear Him whisper of the things of Christmas? The whisper of the Lord is an instinct of the heart. A French priest of the mid-twentieth century described the whisper well. The Lord's whisper is "always troubling us in secret, ennobling our dreams, like a mysterious and irresistible call from unknown lands which send us their perfumes and beckon to us, but do not send their fruits, while we ourselves have neither oars nor sails to reach them... We have the idea and the desire of a happiness, a knowledge, an immortality, which surpass our human possibilities." By His grace, the Lord plants within us a deep instinct for higher things - the things of Christmas. God plants within us an instinct for Himself - an instinct to seek Him, cleave to Him, belong to Him, live with Him, indeed, see Him.
The Lord plants within us this thirst for Himself so that He might slake this very thirst by giving us Himself. He awakens our desire for the things of Christmas so that Christmas itself might be his gift to us - the gift of His very self revealed through flesh.
All the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent combine to reveal just how close God wants to be with us and how close He wants us to be with Him.
Emmanuel On My Lap
In the first reading, we hear the great prophecy of Isaiah: "Behold, a virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel." The Gospel reading tells us the meaning of the name 'Emmanuel.' It means "God with us", and that is what the child born of Mary really is. He is God with us. As Pope St. Leo the Great put it, "by giving birth in this wonderful way, the holy Virgin brought forth in a single offspring both a truly human nature and a truly divine one."
Jesus is God with us. Perhaps we have heard this truth so many times that we have become thoughtless about it. Perhaps we have never really explored its depths. It is time to ponder the mystery anew so that on Christmas day we may live it anew.
The child to be born of the Virgin will be both a dweller and a dwelling. Jesus is God dwelling among us: "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..."(Jn. 1:14). And Jesus is a dwelling for us: "Abide in me...abide in my love" (Jn. 15:4,9). The first one to dwell in this Dwelling was Mary.
St. Ephrem the Syrian considered the possibility that Mary had heard the prophecy of Isaiah. In that case, she must have looked upon her own situation in light of Isaiah's prophecy.
With this possibility in mind, St. Ephrem meditated deeply upon the birth of Christ from Mary's point of view. At the birth of Christ, Mary recalls the prophecy of Isaiah and says to herself "Am I having a dream or a vision, that behold, upon my lap is Emmanuel? I shall cease all else and give thanks to the Lord of the universe each day." Should we do anything less on this Fourth Sunday of Advent? Let us cease all else, and give thanks to the Lord of the universe.
The responsorial Psalm and the Epistle to the Romans take us deeper still. They reveal even more of the meaning of "God with us."
The Psalm speaks of the "clean of hand and pure of heart, who are not devoted to idols." The Roman Breviary's translation of the same verse is more revealing. It speaks of "the man of clean hands and pure heart, who desires not worthless things." Who is the man of clean hands and pure heart except Jesus - the "Holy One of Israel" (Is. 1:4)? And why does God the Father give the man of clean hands and pure heart to us? Why does the Father send the Holy One of Israel to us?
The Father has given Jesus to us so that we might belong to Jesus.
Belonging to Jesus Christ
St. Paul says this in the second reading. We "are called to belong to Jesus Christ." Calling is another word for vocation. And what Blessed Teresa of Calcutta says about her sisters' religious vocation is equally true of every Christian's baptismal vocation. "Our vocation is the conviction that we belong to him," that is, belong to Jesus. St. Paul writes elsewhere that "I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want" (Phil. 4:12). What is his secret? His secret is his conviction that he belongs to Jesus. "I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rm. 8:38-9).
Do I have the same conviction? Does my heart cry out to Jesus "I belong to You"? Does absolutely every part of my life belong to Jesus Christ? Can I say to Jesus in prayer, "Let anything whatsoever happen to me, only let me belong to You"? If not, then it is time to surrender to Jesus. It is time to belong completely to Christ. It is time to welcome the Presence. For the Presence will create the belonging.
As I meditate upon them, the point of all the readings of the Fourth Sunday of Advent is that we are called to share absolutely everything with Jesus - even to unimaginable depths of union.
Jesus wants us to share in His peace. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you..." (Jn. 14:27). Jesus wants us to share in His joy. "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you..." (Jn. 15:11, cf. 17:13). Jesus wants us to share in His life. "I am the vine; you are the branches" (Jn. 15:5). Jesus wants us to have a share in His Spirit. "I will put my spirit within you" (Ez. 36:27). Jesus wants us to share in His mission. "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (Jn. 20:21). Jesus wants us to share in His fate. "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you...But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings" (1 Pet.4:12-13). Jesus wants us to share His God, that is, His Father: "I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (Jn.20:17). Jesus wants us to share His glory: "Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory" (Jn.17:24). And beholding His glory will make us share in His glory. "And we all, with unveiled face beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another..." (2 Cor. 3:18).
Earlier we spoke of a higher kind of peace, a higher kind of joy, a higher kind of life, truth, goodness, and happiness. We spoke of how Christ whispers into His bride's ear of these higher things - the things of Christmas. And now we know what He whispers.
He whispers of His peace - peace divine. He whispers of His joy - joy divine. He whispers of His life - life divine. He whispers His word - "shining as a lamp in some dark place" (2 Pet. 1:19). The only appropriate way to celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent is to yield to every desire for these things of Christmas. "O God, you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water" (Ps. 63:2-3, Breviary).
For Christmas is nearly here now. That day is upon us when Christ will put Himself as a babe into our hands, and say, so to speak, "welcome to my world."
 Masure, Eugene. The Christian Sacrifice. trans. Trethowan, Dom Illtyd. London: Burns Oates & Washburn Ltd., 1947, p.57
 St. Leo the Great, as excerpted and translated in Isaiah: Interpreted by Early Christian and Medieval Commentators, ed. Wilken, Robert Louis. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007, p.105
 St. Ephrem, as excerpted and translated in Wilken (2007), p.105
 Teresa, Mother. Total Surrender. Ed. Scolazzi, Brother Angelo Devenanda. Cincinnati, OH: Servant Books. 1985, p.38
About The Author:
Br. James Brent, O.P. is a Dominican Friar in formation for the priesthood at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.. Please visit our vocations blog at http://www.dominicanfriars.org/.
By Catherine Marshall
We spent Christmas 1960 at Evergreen Farm in Lincoln, Virginia--the home of my parents. With us were my sister and her husband -- Emmy and Harlow Hoskins -- and their two girls, Lynn and Winifred. It meant a typical family occasion with our three children, Linda, Chester, and Jeffrey, along with Peter John who was then a senior at Yale. Five children can make an old farmhouse ring with the yuletide spirit.
For our Christmas Eve service, Lynn and Linda had prepared an improvised altar before the living room fireplace. Jeffrey and Winifred (the youngest grandchildren) lighted all the candles. Then with all of his family gathered around him, my father read Luke's incomparable account of the first Christmas. There was carol singing, with Chester and Winifred singing a duet, "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," in their high, piping voices. Then my mother, the storyteller of the family, gave us an old favorite, "Why the Chimes Rang." She made us see the ragged little boy creeping up that long cathedral aisle and slipping his gift onto the altar.
Then she said, "You know, I'd like to make a suggestion to the family. The floor underneath the tree in the den is piled high with gifts we're giving to one another. But we're celebrating Christ's birthday, not each other's. This is His time of year. What are we going to give to Jesus?"
The room began to hum with voices, comparing notes. But Mother went on, "Let's think about it for a few moments. Then we'll go around the circle and each of us will tell what gift he will lay on the altar for Christ's birthday."
Chester, age seven, crept close to his father for a whispered consultation. Then he said shyly, "What I'd like to give Jesus this year is not to lose my temper anymore."
Jeffrey, age four, who had been slow in night training, was delightfully specific. "I'll give Him my diapers."
Winifred said softly that she was going to give Jesus good grades in school.
Lynn's was, "To be a better father, which means a gift of more patience."
And so it went... on around the group. Peter John's was short but significant. "What I want to give to Christ is a more dedicated life." I was to remember that statement five years later at the moment of his ordination into the Presbyterian ministry when he stood so straight and so tall and answered so resoundingly, "I do so believe.... I do so promise...." Yet at Christmas time, 1960, the ministry was probably the last thing he expected to get into.
Then it was my father's turn. "I certainly don't want to inject too solemn a note into this," he said, "but somehow I know that this is the last Christmas I'll be sitting in this room with my family gathered around me like this."
We gasped and protested, but he would not be stopped. "No, I so much want to say this. I've had a most wonderful life. Long, long ago I gave my life to Christ. Though I've tried to serve Him, I've failed Him often. But He has blessed me with great riches -- especially my family. I want to say this while you're all here. I may not have another chance. Even after I go on into the next life, I'll still be with you. And, of course, I'll be waiting for each one of you there."
There was love in his brown eyes -- and tears in ours. No one said anything for a moment. Time seemed to stand still in the quiet room. Firelight and candlelight played on the children's faces as they looked at their grandfather, trying to grasp what he was saying. The fragrance of balsam and cedar was in the air. The old windowpanes reflected back the red glow of Christmas lights.
Father did leave this world four months later -- on May first. His passing was like a benediction. It happened one afternoon as he sat quietly in a chair in the little village post office talking to some of his friends. His heart just stopped beating. That Christmas Eve he had known with a strange sureness that the time was close.
Every time I think of Father now, I can see that scene in the living room -- like a jewel of a moment set in the ordinary moments that make up our days. For that brief time, real values came clearly into focus: Father's gratitude for life; Mother's strong faith; my husband's quiet strength; my son's inner yearning momentarily shining through blurred youthful ambitions; the eager faces of children groping toward understanding and truth; the reality of the love of God as our thoughts focused on Him whose birth we were commemorating.
It was my most memorable Christmas.
Think of all the memories we've had as a family during Christmas through the years. What memories do you count as the best? Why?
How could this family make our memories even sweeter than they already are?
An Advent Prayer
Father God, show us how precious each family member is this season. Teach us to number our days so that we might honor you and love others. Give us anew appreciation of how unique and beloved each of us is to the others. Amid the things that bother us the most, let us not lose sight that you have made this family what it is. Help us rest in your wonderful plan that we should go through life together for all of the days we have breath. We're grateful, and our hearts are filled with love for you and each other. Amen.
Today's Advent reading is from 25 Days of Christmas by Greg Johnson. Greg Johnson is the author of more than 20 books. He is President of WordServe Literary Group, a Denver-based literary agency that serves more than 100 authors (www.wordserveliterary.com).
Catherine Marshall (1914 - 1983) was a noted Christian writer perhaps best known for her novel Christy.
Syria Relief Appeal
We are all familiar with the utter devastation caused by the civil war in Syria.
Many of our Christian churches and monasteries are destroyed in the war. The
people who were not murdered are living in relief camps. The conditions here are
pathetic to say the least.
When we, Malankara Nazranees, needed assistance from the persecution from Portuguese, our fathers from Syria came to our aid, often under life-threatening conditions. Our Patron Saint Baselios Bava, for instance, came here in spite of his advanced age and health. Many of these fathers were killed in India. But they persisted and, as result, we can practice our faith.
Now they need our help. Many of you want to help but are, perhaps, wondering how you can help. Archdiocese of the Eastern United States of Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch has set up a special Syria Relief Fund to assist the refugees. Your donation will be sent directly to those in need via the church. We hope that during this Christmas Season, a Season of Giving, you will open your hearts to help these fellow Christians who need our help.
Archbishop Mor Aphrem Karim, Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of the Eastern United States of Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch has issued a bull exhorting all faithful and friends to help. Here are excerpts from that bull:
You can donate online at the following website which is the official website for Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch - Archdiocese of the Eastern United States
by Frank Broom
One of the most important things people overlook in dealing with sickness is what they speak out of their mouth. You can't just speak anything because your words have an effect on your body. In the book of James he says, if you offend not in word, you are able to bridle your whole body. He also goes on to say your tongue is like the rudder of a ship, so if you want to go from sickness to healing then you are going to have to set your tongue to healing and not sickness. In 1Peter 3:10 he says, if you want to see good keep your tongue from evil. That's a principle so you could also say, if you want to see healing keep your tongue from sickness. And the best way to do that is to put God's word in your mouth concerning your healing. Because Proverbs 4:22 says, God's word is health (medicine) to all your flesh. God's word in your mouth is medicine to all your flesh.
Now somebody might be saying prove that with the word, remember Abraham and his wife Sarah the scripture says, he was old and his body was dead (not functioning in a manner to have a son) and his wife Sarah was barren, but God said they would have a son together and that Abraham's seed would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. How did God change their bodies to carry out what He spoke, He changed their names. He gave them something to say that was in line with what He spoke. Abraham means-Father of a multitude and Sarah means-Princess of the multitude. Notice what Psalm 103:5 says, He satisfies your mouth with good things; so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. Notice that scripture doesn't say He satisfies you. He gives you something to say to change your body.
Somebody may be saying, yes, but I need a miracle, well in Luke 1 the angel came to Mary, a virgin, and told her she was going to have a son and they talked for a little while, but notice that angel didn't depart until Mary spoke in line with what he said, "Be it unto me according to thy word". It wasn't until Mary spoke that the miracle took place. Now, you can't deny that the word has a lot to say about your words having an effect on your body. Especially God's word and some say they don't believe in speaking God's word when the Bible says, it is powerful and has the power to save. That word save in the Greek also means heal. That's why the word is medicine, because there's healing power in the word of God. So, I encourage you to see what the word has to say about your healing like-"By whose stripes ye were healed" 1Peter 2:24, or "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law" Galatians 3:13, or Himself took my infirmities and bore my sicknesses (you have to make it personal). And put your hope and faith in what God says and don't give up it is going to take time. But, you have to start somewhere.
James 3:2-4 1Peter 3:10 Proverbs 4:20-22 Proverbs 12:18 Romans 4:19 Hebrews 4:12
My mother and I have both used this principle to be
healed of cancer. I had surgery and my mom had no treatment at all. Both of our
situations baffled the doctors.
God’s Word is powerful. The biggest obstacle I dealt with was fear. Sometimes my
prayers were for healing; other times they were to overcome the fear and for
God is good.
God’s Word is powerful. The biggest obstacle I dealt with was fear. Sometimes my prayers were for healing; other times they were to overcome the fear and for increased faith.
God is good.
By Dr. Ben Kim, DrBenKim.com
To promote your best health, including strong bones and teeth, it's vital that you eat plenty of green plant foods on a regular basis. And ounce for ounce, few green plant foods are more nutrient-rich than green peas.
Green peas are naturally abundant in folate, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, carotenoids, tryptophan, vitamin K, manganese, healthy protein, and a number of other health-promoting nutrients.
Experience the many health benefits of eating green peas with the following recipe for Green Pea and Chickpea Soup - it's exceptionally healthy and calls for highly affordable ingredients.
Makes about 4 large or 6 small servings
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1. In a large soup pot, cook onion, garlic, and celery with a couple of tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil over low to medium heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until vegetables are soft. Stir occasionally.
2. Add chickpeas, peas, and broth, and bring to a boil over medium to medium-high heat.
3. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for about 15 minutes, or until chickpeas and peas are tender.
4. Use a hand-held blender to partially blend ingredients in the pot. If you prefer smooth soups, blend everything until well homogenized. If you like texture to your soups, just blend for about 5-10 seconds, which should allow some of the peas and chickpeas to remain intact.
If you don't have a hand-held blender, blend small portions in a regular blender or food processor; then transfer back to the pot.
5. Season with sea salt and pepper.
6. If you have fresh chopped parsley or cilantro on hand, sprinkle a tablespoon over each bowl before serving.
Enjoy this nourishing, protein-rich soup on its own, with a heel of your favorite crusty bread, or your favorite grain dish.
An old Doberman starts chasing rabbits and before long, discovers that he's lost. Wandering about, he notices a panther heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch.
The old Dobermann thinks, "Oh, oh! I'm in deep s--- now!"
Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the panther is about to leap, the old Dobermann exclaims loudly,
"Boy, that was one delicious panther! I wonder, if there are any more around here?"
Hearing this, the young panther halts his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror comes over him and he slinks away into the trees.
"Whew!," says the panther, "That was close! That old Dobermann nearly had me!"
Meanwhile, a squirrel who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the panther. So, off he goes.
The squirrel soon catches up with the panther, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the panther.
The young panther is furious at being made a fool of and says, "Here, squirrel, hop on my back and see what's going to happen to that conniving canine!"
Now, the old Dobermann sees the panther coming with the squirrel on his back and thinks, "What am I going to do now?," but instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn't seen them yet, and just when they get close enough to hear, the old Dobermann says .......
"Where's that squirrel? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another panther!"
Moral of this story...
Don't mess with us old dogs... age, experience and skill will always overcome youth and treachery!
Bull S--- and brilliance only come with age and experience:)
Of course, I am in no way insinuating that you are old, just 'youthfully challenged' :)
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