This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham . . . (Matthew 1:1)
In this Advent season, the run-up to Christmas, we are looking at the coming of Christ as it affected individuals and how they experienced this extraordinary event.
Let’s begin with a group that we can call ‘the ancestors of Jesus’.
When it comes to people, Matthew’s introduction to Jesus’ birth does them in a big way. We get 16 verses of names. Although genealogies don’t mean very much to many of us in the West, they do in other parts of the world. For most people, the answer to the question ‘Who am I?’ includes ‘Who do I come from?’ Ancestry is part of identity.
Here, this list of names takes us back to Abraham and David – to whom God promised descendants who would be a blessing to the world.
Perhaps the most significant thing about both Abraham and David is that they are people to whom God made promises about descendants. Two thousand years before Christ’s birth, God promised Abraham that he would have descendants who would be a blessing to the entire human race. A thousand years later, God promised David that he would have a descendant who would be a far greater king than David would ever be. That king was given the name Messiah, ‘the one who is anointed’, and the Greek word is the Christ. This list of names is of people through whom God’s promises to both Abraham and David are working out. Advent is the culmination of an awesome length of history.
Imagine yourself as a faithful Jew around the time of Jesus’ birth: whenever you remembered those age-old promises to Abraham and David you must have felt disappointed that they had not been fulfilled. Yet the reality was that God was about to fulfil those promises; he was just working at his own pace.
In an age of instant everything – credit, coffee, photographs, dating – it is easy to become impatient with God when nothing seems to be happening in our lives. We can assume that the apparent absence of God’s action means that he is not active. Yet God works in his own way and to his own timescale. Part of the story of Advent is the revelation that God had been working out his promises to both Abraham and David.
‘Is it Christmas yet?’ children often ask at this time of year, yet we are often impatient too. God may have promised you something – just be patient!