The Genealogy of Jesus
Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, December 21, 2014
We read today the genealogy of Jesus from St. Matthew’s Gospel. It is different from St. Luke’s genealogy and there are reasons for this which we do not time to talk about this morning. I would rather spend time on the point of this Gospel and that is, God became man to save everyone and everything.
It is as Thomas Merton speaks of this using the metaphor of sunlight through a magnifying glass.
“As a magnifying glass concentrates the rays of the sun into a burning knot of heat that can set fire to a dry leaf or a piece of paper, so the mystery of Christ in the Gospel concentrates the rays of God’s light and fire to a point that sets fire to the spirit of man. Through the glass of His Incarnation He concentrates the rays of His Divine Truth and Love upon us so that we feel the burn, and all mystical experience is communicated to men through the Man Christ.”
What are the sun rays? It seems clear to me that these rays are all the fragments of myths and wisdom and beauty that can be found throughout the entire world including art and science and music and poetry and religion. All truth comes from God. All good things come from God. All light comes from Him, the Father of Light
Thus, the Three Wise Men, Zoroastrians from Persia were led by the stars they worshipped to the manger to worship the one who created the stars. God did not hold their paganism against them. He used it to enlighten them. They were men of good will, seekers after God, lovers of truth and God blessed them with visons and dreams, a star and the Christ Child. And then they disappeared from view only to be heard of again in pious legend. The Christ clarified their vision. What happened to them? We don’t know, but I am most willing to assume the God continued to be with them as he was before they went to Bethlehem.
The rays of light from Persia were concentrated in Bethlehem. God honored the Wise Men and blessed them as he does all people of good will wherever they are.
What has been made by God is sacred and what has not been made by Him? Nothing. That we cannot see it, that we do not recognize it, does not mean that it isn’t true. The problem is within us not within God. The problem is with our ability to see, not with our neighbors.
All things are his and all things are united in him, as Trevor Hall sings, “From Jerusalem to the holy Himalayas, from Mt. Zion to the hills of Jamaica, all land is holy, all land is sacred, all shall leave this world completely naked. I don’t want to reason anymore about the One I love. I don’t want to reason anymore about God above. I just want to melt away in all His grace, drift away to that sacred place where there’s no more you and me, no more they and we, just unity.” That is the message of the Incarnation. Unity of all. St. Paul says it this way, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus.” Sounds like the destruction of all boundaries to me.
In Christ all things in heaven and on earth are united. Nothing and no one is left out from the smallest to the largest. Every atom is revealed to be filled with grace. In the immense universe where there are billions of galaxies, trillions of stars and an infinite number of planets God shines his light through them all by the focused energy of his Incarnate Son. Still we must understand that this light we see focused in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem did not begin to shine then and there, it was always shining. Nor was it limited to that time and place. As the writer of Hebrews makes clear, “the universe is held together by the word of his power” as he lay in the cradle just as it was before he was born “in the womb before the Morning Star.”
No one and nothing is left out. St. Gregory Nazianzen declares that God contains in himself all beings. Not just after the Incarnation, but before and after it! So, the Incarnation does not create a unity with God that did not exist before Christmas just as Jesus does not bring into creation the kingdom of heaven. In Christ God reveals a unity and a kingdom that has always existed and that has always been here. Gazing at Christ we see the truth made manifest in human flesh, so that we, so limited by our senses, can now see and touch, hear, smell and taste him. The senses are revealed as gateways through which we encounter God because God has become flesh which is why Orthodox worship aims to stimulate every sense.
The body is good. The senses are good. Nothing that is human is evil. Either that or God did not become a real live human being. We must never disparage what God has created, but rather give thanks for it, care for it, bless it.
In order to remove from us any shred of doubt that God is with us, always has been and always will be, He destroys the myth of separateness by becoming a human being “like one of us”.
The Incarnation was, as it must be, an act of love, for God is love. He did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save it, all of it. This is one of the overarching meanings of the genealogy. Each name represents a person with innumerable relationships, each person represents a unique personality with a unique life, with infinite connections, and unique characteristics, like a plant with roots that spread throughout all the universes. We will find ourselves in this genealogy for we are all connected, we are all related. The flesh of Judah, Tamar, Perez, Ruth, and David and Solomon is my flesh and your flesh.