Lenora here, on this, day 25, of Advent, as my friend and fellow blogger, Rachel and I blog our way to Christmas. Our lectionary readings today took me to Jesus's genealogy. If you've ever read it in the King James Bible, you probably remember the word "begat" being used over and over. And over. Until you just wanted to scream: "Beget this." I've included the passage here in the somewhat less annoying Message translation:
The family tree of Jesus Christ, David’s son, Abraham’s son:
Abraham had Isaac,
Isaac had Jacob,
Jacob had Judah and his brothers,
Judah had Perez and Zerah (the mother was Tamar),
Perez had Hezron,
Hezron had Aram,
Aram had Amminadab,
Amminadab had Nahshon,
Nahshon had Salmon,
Salmon had Boaz (his mother was Rahab),
Boaz had Obed (Ruth was the mother),
Obed had Jesse,
Jesse had David,
and David became king.
David had Solomon (Uriah’s wife was the mother),
Solomon had Rehoboam,
Rehoboam had Abijah,
Abijah had Asa,
Asa had Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat had Joram,
Joram had Uzziah,
Uzziah had Jotham,
Jotham had Ahaz,
Ahaz had Hezekiah,
Hezekiah had Manasseh,
Manasseh had Amon,
Amon had Josiah,
Josiah had Jehoiachin and his brothers,
and then the people were taken into the Babylonian exile.
When the Babylonian exile ended,
Jeconiah had Shealtiel,
Shealtiel had Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel had Abiud,
Abiud had Eliakim,
Eliakim had Azor,
Azor had Zadok,
Zadok had Achim,
Achim had Eliud,
Eliud had Eleazar,
Eleazar had Matthan,
Matthan had Jacob,
Jacob had Joseph, Mary’s husband,
the Mary who gave birth to Jesus,
the Jesus who was called Christ.
There were fourteen generations from Abraham to David,
another fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile,
and yet another fourteen from the Babylonian exile to Christ.
Matthew 1: 1-17
This is fascinating, isn’t it?
Yeah, maybe not so much. Why the writers of the Bible felt it was important to name all these people who were part of Jesus’ lineage (on Joseph, his dad’s – stepdad’s? – side) befuddles me. Seems like they might just have well used the space to write out a grocery list.
I’ve read it through a few times and of course, along with finding it boring, it pisses me off that, until we get to Mary, there are only four mothers mentioned in this whole thing, just Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheeba, who doesn’t even get mentioned by name, just as “Uriah’s wife” because I guess she was one of those embarrassing sore spots in the family line, the kind no topical ointment can begin to relieve.
But, only four mothers…really? Uh, last time I checked, without the mom part of the equation none of this freaking begetting would have been going on. Ugh…patriarchy.
It’s almost Christmas, so families are starting to gather, driving and flying in from great distances to be with each other for the holidays. It’s the time of year we sing classics like “Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go,” and “I’ll be home for Christmas,” and “There’s no place like home for the holidays,” and watch movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” to remind ourselves of the importance of heritage and family (and perhaps to make us feel like we need to own big, beautiful, snow-covered houses in Connecticut) and maybe also to help fuel those long distance journeys through snow and ice and overcrowded airports and endless flight delays.
But, all the soft-focus holiday moments we are often fed about Christmas…well, I don’t know about you, but they actually bear little resemblance to reality. In some families, the reality is actually quite brutal, torturous. Horrifying. Hard to imagine any human being could treat another like that, much less a family member.
And even in the best of families, as much as we love each other, we still hurt and disappoint each other, fail each other in small ways, sometimes huge ways. No matter how hard we try to get it right.
I, for example, have been way too busy to do much Christmas baking with my 20-something daughters who are home for the holidays. Every time I walk by the undecorated cookies we started and then had to abandon I think, “Well, some therapist, some day, is going to be hearing about this... yet another of my Mom failures.”
Here’s the thing: We all long to be known and loved, cherished, adored, and …connected. And often what we find in our actual families is anything but. It’s ironic (but maybe not) that one of the other lectionary texts for today was the story of Joseph and his jealous brothers, from Genesis. Family drama is a very old story.
And funnily enough, Jesus, once he was born, never actually seemed to think the family we are born into was all that important. He didn’t idealize his or any family. He didn’t see the “nuclear family unit” as something to be protected at all costs.
His focus was on creating community, and on the made-up rag-tag little family born of his disciples and others who came around him, who shared his deep values: justice, mercy, peace, equality, kindness and the understanding that there really is enough to go around. A family, by the way, in which the old patriarchal rules about women were tossed out the window.
Together they became the early church, a subversive family of people connected in their desire to help the whole wide world become new. They became a messy, imperfect yet beautiful collection of people who shared resources, took care of each other, cherished and adored each other, no matter what family they were born into.
So, I’m still not sure why Matthew thought it was so important to start off his gospel with Jesus’ genealogy (I’m sure there are some serious theologians out there with an answer, however).
But what it made me realize this morning is that Jesus didn’t seem to care all that much about where he came from. But he cared, and cares deeply, about where we are ALL going.
He seemed to care most about creating “beloved community” right here and right now. He said in John’s gospel that he came, in fact so we can all have “real and eternal life,” “more and better life” than we ever dreamed of.
Yeah. Now that sounds like good news. For all of us.
And now I gotta go finish those friggin’ cookies.
Thanks for reading. If you'd like to read more, and find out when a new post is up, click here to subscribe to this blog and receive an email alert each time there's a new post (which is usually about once a week). My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.
You can also follow the Spiritual Suckitude Society on Facebook.
During Advent my friend Rachel and I decided to write a devotional-ish kind of thing every day. To learn more about that, read this.