Daily Reflection
December 17th, 2003
Joan Howard
University College
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Genesis 49:2, 8-10
Psalm 72
Matthew 1:1-17

Today’s gospel reading is a very long list of names - Jesus’ genealogy.  It begins with Abraham and goes all the way down through the Babylonian exile to “Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born…”  It includes 42 generations.

It occurs to me that these are not just names, but names that carry with them stories full of emotion. There are characters, scoundrels, saints and sinners – all sitting in Jesus’ family tree.  There are incidents of murder, rape and abandonment.  There are stories of lust, incest, greed and theft.  There are also stories of love, faithfulness and devotion.  The stories reflect times of peace and times of war, exile and repatriation.  These are not just names, but 42 generations of stories of people’s lives - all related to Jesus of Nazareth.  All about how the mystery of God enters into our collective  story.

I recall growing up hearing stories about the characters sitting in my family tree.  The alcoholic who neglected his family. The sailor who actually sailed all 7 seas by the age of 35.  There were numerous adventure types who left home to live in foreign countries.  There were women who left their families to follow husbands.  Children who died young and men who lived to be 100. There was a great uncle who had done something so heinous that his name was hardly spoken, and then in a whisper.  There were spinster women and young dandies.  There were slave owners and those enslaved by their own addictions. There were a million stories. I loved hearing the stories of adventure, greed, disease, defeat and success.  I enjoyed hearing about the scoundrels as much as the saints.   I had my favorites for sure. The stories made me feel proud, sad, shame, happy and excited.  But most of all they made me feel as though I belonged.  I belonged to a family.  Not a perfect family, but my family. 

Jesus also was born into a family.  Not a perfect family, but his family.  Jesus was born into a family.  Jesus of Nazareth was fully human, a descendent of a human family.   There were saints, scoundrels, and skeletons in his family tree, just as there are in mine. 

During this Advent season of longing, preparation and now of rejoicing we might reflect on our own families, our own stories of anticipation, joy, love, devotion, abandonment and trial. Who is my family?  What does it mean to be part of my family?  How has Jesus entered into my story, my family, my life?  Where is the continuing mystery of the presence of God?

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