SUNDAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS, OF THE ANCESTORS
(Matthew 1, 1-25)
“God Became Human that Humans Might Become God”
(St. Athanasius the Great)
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Dear brothers and sisters!
Today the Church sees all the figures whose stories are told in the Old Testament as being, in one way or another, Ancestors of Christ. Some of them, such as Ruth, Jesse and David, were actual blood relatives of Jesus. Others, such as Moses and the Prophets, are considered Christ’s spiritual ancestors. They prepared the way for the coming of Christ by their trust in God and their faithfulness to the Old Testament. They were God’s partners in furthering Salvation History and preparing the world to receive Christ.
During the Nativity Fast the Church keeps the memory of several of the prophets. It also observes two special Sundays just before the Feast of the Nativity to recall all these Old Testament heroes. On the second Sunday before Christmas we observe the Sunday of the Ancestors of Christ, focusing on His spiritual ancestors. On the Sunday before Christmas we remember the Lord’s blood relatives in a special way.
In the Divine Liturgy, we read of Jesus Christ’s lineage from the Gospel of Saint Matthew. In this way, the Church shows us that Christ truly became a man, taking on human nature. He was not a ghost, an apparition, a myth, a distant imagined god, or the abstract god of philosophers; such a god does not have a family tree. Our God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He has flesh and blood, human ancestors—many of whom sinned greatly, but like David, also repented greatly. Yet, all of these righteous ones in every age had been well-pleasing to God because they loved Him. By taking on human nature, the Son of God became like us in all ways, in flesh and blood, in mind and soul, and in heart and will. He differed from us in only one way: He could not sin. Since we know that Christ’s human nature remained sinless, He is also fully divine, and He shows us the way in which we can avoid sin, and so improve and transform our human nature.
In the first section of this prologue (1, 1-25), the evangelist centers on the name of Jesus – not “name” as an arbitrary label, but as revealing the mysterious identity of Jesus. He is the Christ, the the promised Messiah, the Son of Abraham, the Son of David (1, 1). The carefully selected genealogy (1, 1-17) traces Jesus’ royal lineage from Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, to David the King, to Joseph and Mary. Justas the promise to Abraham was maintained in extraordinary ways in Israel’s long history, so now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary a virgin shall bear a Son. The name given to this Son of David signals God’s day is at hand: he is “Jesus” (God’s salvation), “Emmanuel” (God with us).
By their holy intercessions, O God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.
Rev. Myroslav Dumych