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