|16 - Sunday Before Christmas, Dec 18, 2016 (with audio)|
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Hebrews 11:9-10, 17-23, 32-40
“For, God did not make death, neither does He have pleasure in the destruction of the living. But, God created Man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of His own eternity.” So we read in the Wisdom of Solomon (1:15 & 2:23) And, in the Psalter, we read: “The LORD spoke, and it came to be. He commanded, and [creation] stood forth” (Ps 33:9). The fundamental principle of creation is obedience to the WORD of the LORD. In obedience, creation rises from non-existence into being and lives. Man is made in the image of God’s own eternity, which means that man is made for communion with God. There is no death and everything is good, very good. That there is death, that there is suffering and evil in the world, that man is not in communion with God reveals that creation has fallen away from God because of disobedience, the disobedience of Adam. With this as our introduction, let’s contemplate our Gospel this morning.
The genealogy of Jesus we hear in St Matthew’s Gospel this morning is one of two genealogies of Jesus given in Holy Scripture. The other is in St Luke’s Gospel. The holy fathers explain that the differences we find in the two genealogies are from the fact that St Matthew is tracing Jesus’ genealogy through Joseph, and St Luke is tracing it through His Holy Mother, Mary. But, there are other noteworthy differences.
St Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy all the way back to Adam, the “son of God”. St Matthew presents his genealogy as the “Book of the Genesis of Jesus Christ”, and begins with Abraham. Both are startling and wonderful, beyond all expectation, powerful and theologically profound in what their genealogies proclaim about Jesus. In tracing Jesus’ genealogy from Joseph, who was the father of Jesus following the custom of the law (nomizo – i.e., St Luke is saying that Joseph was not the biological father, but he was reckoned as the father per the custom of the law concerning a man who married a widowed mother) – from Joseph all the way back to Adam, St Luke evokes the passage we just read from the Wisdom of Solomon: “For, God made Man in the Image of His own eternity.” That Image, of course, is Christ Jesus (Col 1:15). Here we come upon the biblical vision of Man, that even though he is not God by nature, yet by nature he exists in kinship with God; he exists in the image of God; he exists, so says St Didymus the Blind of Alexandria (4th C) in the capacity for union with God.
But St Luke’s genealogy only sets forth in sharp relief how man exists now in an unnatural manner because, forgetful and even ignorant of God, subject to death and corruption as in iron bonds and brass bars of enslavement (cf. Ps 106:9-15 LXX) because of disobedience, man exists in a way that is against his nature.
St Matthew presents the genealogy of Jesus as a “Book”: “The Book of the Beginning of Jesus Christ”, he says, “Son of David, Son of Abraham.” Now, this Jesus says to Mary and Martha in John’s Gospel, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, even though he die, yet shall he live” (Jn 11:25). And the angel says to Joseph in our Gospel this morning: “The [Babe] in Mary’s [womb] is begotten of the Holy Spirit. She will bring forth a Son (i.e., the Son she will bring forth as her Son is, in fact, the Son of God who is the Image in whom Man was made!) and you call His Name, Jesus (Joshua, which means in Hebrew: the LORD is Savior) because He will save His people from their sins” (Mt 1:20-21). This word of the angel – “He will save”, as both the Name and the Mighty Act this Jesus will do – refers us back to the Wisdom of Solomon, which says: “The LORD created all things to be, and the generations of the world for salvation (i.e., for health and freedom).”
The Book of the Genesis or Beginning of Jesus Christ, then, is the Book of the Beginning of Life; more specifically, the Book of the Beginning of the Life of God. Jesus’ genealogy, i.e., is the Book of Life (Rev 13:8 et al.), which tells us that the Book of Life is written in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. In other words, the Book of Life is itself the flesh and blood of Jesus’ forefathers, whom the Church calls the Ancestors of God, the flesh and blood that He took and made His own when He Himself became flesh and “pitched His Tent” among us, the flesh and blood that we are united to so that the Book of Life is written in us when we are born from above and become children of God when we are made one with Christ’s Body and Blood through the Sacramental Mysteries of Christ’s Holy Church, His precious Body and Blood that are the elixir of life, the medicine of immortality.
St Matthew teaches us that this Book of Life, this Book of the Genesis or Beginning of Jesus Christ, begins with Abraham. Let’s say, then, that Abraham is the front cover of the Book. And, let’s say that King David is the back cover, the Holy Theotokos and the LORD Jesus Christ are its content; the Theotokos is the parchment woven in the warp and woof drawn from all the generations of the holy forefathers, and the LORD Jesus Christ is the WORD written on, impressed or stamped or engraved indelibly upon that parchment.
If Abraham is the front cover, it means that the Book of Life is the Book of Faith in the LORD Jesus Christ. For, it was by his faith in the Promise given to him by the WORD of the LORD that happened to him (Gn 15:1) that Abram was made righteous, i.e., he was made alive in God; for the exalted father, Abram, became by his faith in the WORD of the LORD that happened to him, Abraham, the father of many through the Seed that was sown in the womb of his wife, Sarai, when the LORD returned and visited her the following Spring (Gen 18:14 & 21:1).
And, if King David is the back cover, it’s because it was to King David’s Son – whom the LORD would raise up from King David’s body and who would build a house for the LORD’s Name (i.e., who would become flesh and pitch His Tent, His House, among us! Jn 1:14) – that the WORD of the LORD would give a Kingdom without end (II Sam 7:12-13 & Isa 9:7). I.e., we are referred again to the Wisdom of Solomon. The Kingdom of David’s Son, the LORD Jesus Christ, is a Kingdom where there is no death, a Kingdom in which the world is healthy and free, and where the subjects live in obedience to God, because the LORD Jesus who is its King and who was anointed as its King at the Jordan, is Himself the Life of the world who illumines, i.e., who makes alive in light, everyone who comes into that world, that Kingdom (Jn 1:9).
In Adam, all died. Everyone born of Adam is born in death and corruption. It is death and corruption that shape their life, both their soul and their body so that they live in darkness, and in darkness they live for death and corruption. Christ is the New Adam born of the New Eve, the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary. He is the Seed of God sown in the womb of the Virgin, in the heart of our human nature. The Seed of God, He is the Fruit of the Tree of Life that in His obedience even to the point of death on the Cross, has fallen into the ground of our soul to work our salvation in the “midst of the earth” (Ps 74:12), shattering the gates of brass and crushing the iron bars of hell (Ps 106:16) so that those who believe, those who want tobe saved, can receive Him into their heart, their soul, their body and be brought out from the darkness and shadow of death (Ps 106:14) by following Him from the Cave of Bethlehem to the Tomb of Golgotha and into their heart transfigured into the Bridal Chamber where they are born again from above as children of God!
This is the joy of Christmas! This is the Story of Christmas that shapes and defines the inner and outer life of all who believe and who in faith, practice obedience in love for God and are written into the Book of Life, the Book of the Genesis of Jesus Christ so that even though they die, yet they live for what dies is what’s earthly in them, the idolatry of disobedience, and what lives is the kinship with God that is natural to them, the love of faith in the joy of the eternal life of Jesus Christ, our LORD, our God our Savior. Amen!