In the Lectionary

December 18, Fourth Sunday of Advent: Matthew 1:18–25

Matthew's geneaology underscores that God has always worked through messy and broken families.

There are multiple Greek words for birth that Matthew could use to begin his Gospel and describe the birth of Jesus. The one he uses is genesis. The genealogy that prefaces Matthew’s birth story seems as orderly as the first six days of creation. The names are what we expect, all the greatest heroes of Jewish history.

Scratching the surface exposes more complicated truth. Abraham sets aside his oldest son, while Jacob cheats his brother out of his birthright. David murders a man to prevent a scandal. The women Matthew includes aren’t much better. Tamar plays prostitute; Rahab actually is one. Ruth is a foreigner. Yet all have their place in the new creation of Jesus.

As Joseph enters the story, we are primed to hear of Jesus’ genesis in a new kind of way. By the time a direct descendant of Abraham finds his betrothed pregnant with a child not his own, the messiness of family life has been well established.