The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (1:1-25)
Today, the Sunday before Christmas, the feast of Nativity, we hear the famous geneology of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ as it is recorded by St. Matthew the evangelist. Matthew opens his gospel with the geneology of Jesus Christ for some important reasons. He wants to make sure to his audience, especially to his fellow Jews, that Jesus of Nazareth is in fact a Jew, a son of Abraham, as well as a descendant of David the King. By this we understand that Jesus is of royal lineage according to Jewish law because according to the law, Joseph is the father of Jesus.
Later when you read the gospel of St. Luke you see that Luke also traces the geneology of Christ but he does so through His mother Mary. Interestingly, Luke still demonstrates that Mary is the descendant of Abraham and also of King David. Therefore it is demonstrated both physically and legally, that Jesus of Nazareth is a Jew of royal lineage and therefore has the proper prerequisites to be the long awaited messiah, the anointed one of Israel.
As we hear all of these names we are reminded that Our Lord Jesus has a family tree as do all of you. None of us just pops into existence out of nowhere. Neither does the Son of God. His lineage can be traced, legally through Joseph, and actually through His mother Mary. This is very very important. The Church is telling us that Jesus really became a flesh and blood human being. He entered into history and became the main point of our story as human beings on the planet earth.
The Church through great effort and struggles over the centuries tried to make sure that people would not follow false, heretical teachings because in false teaching there is no life, only death. The main two teachings that the Church struggled against were these: That Christ was not truly God, and that Christ was not truly man. And if I ask you which of these two is more important you might be surprised to learn that the answer is BOTH. They are equally true and equally important.
What does it matter that God lived and dwelt among us if He did not really take our human flesh? What does it matter that He suffered and was crucified and buried and rose from the dead, if He did not do so in actual flesh? We do not believe in a crucified and risen spirit or ghost. We believe in the crucified and risen God-man. And this is so important. It is the heart and soul of Christmas. That God really took flesh, the human DNA from His mother Mary and dwelt in her womb for 9 months, and was birthed and nursed and raised from infancy to adulthood. This same Jesus knew what it was to experience life as a human. He hungered and thirsted, he felt all of the human emotions (although His were pure). He wept at the loss of His friend Lazarus. He felt the betrayal of His disciple Judas. He knew the shame of spitting and scourging and mocking. He experienced the extreme pain and agony of the cross. He gave up His life and died a human death.
God sent His Son to dwell among us because there was no other way to save us from the curse of Adam. Through one man, sin entered into the world, and through the new Adam, we were offered a chance at redemption and life because of His righteousness.
St. Sophrony of Essex speaks of the double justification that happens in the incarnation and crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. He tells us that through Christ becoming a man and dying for us, God is justified before mankind, having proven that He has loved us without limitations and done everything in order to reconcile us to Himself through the sacrifice of His only Son. And on the other side, Christ justifies humanity before God by uniting Himself with us and demonstrating a sacrificial life of pure love, righteousness and holiness in human flesh.
Since Christ became a man in the flesh, He has transformed our humanity. He has opened to us new possibilities of growth and progress and life in God.
St. John of Kronstadt writing about the amazing nature of the nativity of Christ says “And the Word became flesh!…in order to make us earthly beings into heavenly ones, in order to make sinners into saints; in order to raise us up from corruption into incorruption, from earth to heaven; from enslavement to sin and the devil – into the glorious freedom of children of God; from death – into immortality, in order to make us sons of God and to seat us together with Him upon the Throne as His royal children.”
Christ the Son of God became a human child so that we humans might become children of God. In 2nd Peter 1:4 we are called to be “partakers in the divine nature.” This is possible my dear brothers and sisters because the divine One first chose to partake of our nature. By His perfect partaking of our nature He has clothed us with His nature and opened to us the greatest hope that could ever be imagined. The hope of eternal and everlasting life in communion with our Creator, who desired to unite Himself to us so that we might forever unite ourselves to Him. To Him alone be the glory forever AMEN.