Live Audio File
Sun. before Nativity, Dec. 24, 2023 Matt: 1:1-25
Glory to Jesus Christ! Soon we will be greeting each other with the joyous greeting “Christ is Born – Glorify Him!” Christ God, the Uncreated who created all things takes flesh and blood from the most blessed Virgin Mary, becomes fully human and sanctifies and redeems all of humanity.
God’s plan for our salvation was formed before the beginning of time. He carefully arranged for everything from the very beginning to complete our salvation. We see throughout both the Old and the New Testaments that there is a “fullness of time.”
Today we are given the “begots” These are the opening verses of the Gospel of Matthew. The list starts with Fr. Abraham and goes up until Christ’s birth. As we listen to this list of Christ’s human ancestors we ask ourselves, “Why does the entire New Testament start with this list?” Because “Who Christ is”, matters more than anything else for us of the race of Adam, – we have no salvation apart from the person of Christ. We need to be very clear that He is completely human, one of us, as well as completely God, of one essence with the Father. All seven of the Ecumenical councils that we in the Orthodox Church hold as irrevocable and foundational to our faith, were called to clarify this question, and refute and even anathematize those who would try to confuse and distort the fullness of the truth of who Christ is. If He is not fully God and fully man crucified and resurrected from the dead, and seated at the right hand of the Father, our faith is in vain, and we are deluded, and of all men to be most pitied.
We are enmeshed in a fierce battle. We desperately want to be free of this terrible reality and there is only one way out – through Christ! Whether we know this consciously or not is irrelevant, truth doesn’t require the approval of our intellect. Paul says in Romans (8:21, 22) “…creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole of creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now.”
Matthew’s list of Christ’s ancestors demonstrates Christ’s love for us, His broken and wounded fellow brothers and sisters. It is full of repentant sinners. The central figures who anchor Christ’s human genealogy in this list are Father Abraham whom God promised to make the Father of uncountable millions, and King David, known as a foreshadowing of the Kingship of Christ. King David is a man whom God says is “a man after My own heart – Chief of the Kings of the earth”. Yet he is listed here in Matthew’s genealogy as “David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.” This reminds us that there is no such thing as hidden sin, everything is brought to the light and exposed in the illumination of His light. Sins are exposed and forgiven and left very visible as a reminder of God’s great mercy.
Remember David’s story, his kingdom is fighting a war, but he is away from the fighting in the comfort of his castle and chooses to indulge his flesh and act as a peeping tom, spying on Bathsheba as she baths naked. Being smitten by her beauty his passion is stirred and he has Bathsheba brought to him and has his way with her – the wife of Uriah, one of his most faithful and loyal soldiers. Discovering he has gotten Bathsheba pregnant; David tries to hide his sin by calling Uriah back from the fighting at the front, and even gets him drunk so he will go and sleep with his wife Bathsheba and thereby hide David’s selfish sin. Uriah has such integrity that he refuses to go to his wife when his fellow soldiers are still at the front risking their lives for King David. David then decides the best way to hide his sin is to write his chief commanding officer a note, telling him to place faithful Uriah at the front of the fiercest fighting and let him be killed. King David then even sends this death sentence note to be delivered by Uriah himself. Uriah, faithfully serving David his king, is killed as David intended. Not exactly a model of great moral integrity. But the story isn’t over.
David is convicted of his sin by Nathan the prophet and says, “I have sinned against the Lord.” and repents in sackcloth and ashes, weeping and tortured by his sin. There are consequences to sin, the child dies. Yet due to David’s extreme repentance, God forgives, and Saint King David is considered one of our most blessed ancestors, the model of repentance. God’s forgiveness is not dependent upon how great or small our sinning is, but upon our willingness to turn to him in repentance and cry out “Lord have mercy”.
We also see included in this list from the despised tax collector Matthew, whose Gospel we are hearing today, others who we could be scandalized by. Tamar and Rahab for example. None of them were born into the nation of Israel, they were Gentiles. Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and bore twins by seducing her father-in-law Judah – he from whom the entire priestly line of Israel descends. Rahab was a prostitute. Their stories of redemption into God’s people, came about because they chose to leave their lives and their own people, and to loyally follow God in union with His chosen people Israel. They are clearly here to show that included in God’s people are all who would faithfully follow Him, all who would follow God with their heart, mind, and soul. Christ reaches out His arms in compassion and forgiveness and welcomes all of us repentant sinners into His kingdom. It is our actions and the desire of our hearts that unite us to God, not the circumstances of our birth, our nationality, or our position in society.
All of history, all the Old Testament Prophets and Forefathers, they have been waiting for this wonderful event we are drawing near to. The Messiah, our Saviour is born to us in a cave, in a manger with great humility and love. With the animals and the angels and all of creation looking on in wonder and astonishment. He has hung on the cross and shed His blood for our sake and declared “It is finished.” He has shattered the very gates of hades and brought out all the prisoners who would follow Him – paving a path for us and all of mankind into His kingdom. Everything has been completed – except for our part. Today as we draw so near to celebrating the birth of the Christ child, let us all come and adore Him and give to Him our very lives in gratefulness. Glory to Jesus Christ!