Abraham, Forty-Two Generations, Christ

Jesse Tree Matthew Genealogy

Everybody know that Holy Mother Church prays all day, every day—celebrating Mass and singing all the psalms and canticles of the Bible in The Liturgy of the Hours?

Everybody know that She sings three particular canticles every day, without fail? Before bed, the Canticle of Simeon. In the morning, the Benedictus of Zechariah. In the evening, the Magnificat of the Blessed Virgin.

What do the Benedictus and the Magnificat have in common? They both mention one person in particular by name. The Lord “swore and oath” to this person, “made a promise” to him, when the great history of our salvation began.

Correct! Abraham.

The genealogy of Christ at the beginning of St. Matthew’s gospel offers us much more than just a series of tongue-twister names. It gives us the true context of Christmas.

Not that we need to memorize all the ancestors from Amminadab to Mannaseh to Shealtiel to Eleazar, instead of decorating the house. But we do need to ponder the utterly ancient tradition of faith that surrounded Bethlehem, and the manger, like an atmosphere.

At the mall, we won’t see signs that read: “Special Deals for the Fulfillment of the Promises Made to Abraham!” But if we want to know what the Bible says Christmas means; if we want to know what the saints of the all the Christian ages have thought that Christmas means, we need to imagine Abraham, forty-two generations earlier, in a world that had forgotten God.

God broke the silence of the heavens then. “Abraham! We shall be friends! I promise your people a glorious future.”

After forty-two generations of struggling to hold on, of believing in good times, and during the exile; believing during the reigns of good kings and bad; during the times of honest prophets and lying false prophets—the time finally came, the fulfillment of God’s promise.

The ancient Israelites didn’t have to hold on for 42 shopping days. They held on for 42 generations. Then, when a few of them had been trained by all this long preparation to have enough faith to grasp what was happening, God Himself became a child of Abraham.

Advent, Parts I and II

Everybody know that the season of Advent has two parts? Today we complete the first part.

We have prayed and read Scripture passages about the coming of Christ considered as a whole.

In other words: He came as the long-awaited Messiah, fulfilling the prophecies of old. He came to reveal the eternal plan of God for our salvation, inaugurating the New and eternal Covenant for the forgiveness of sins. He came in mystery in order to prepare us for the final consummation, when His glory will fill the earth.

The pre-eminent message of Advent, Part I? Repent! And the pre-eminent messenger? The star of Advent, Part I, so to speak? John the Baptist.

The first part of Advent can last anywhere from 15 to 20 days. This year we have as long an Advent season as we can have, since Christmas falls on a Sunday. The second part of Advent always lasts eight days.

Anyway: During the second part of Advent, we pray and read about the events preceding the Nativity of Christ in Bethlehem. In other words, we make our immediate preparations for celebrating His birthday.

Advent, Part II, has numerous stars, including St. Joseph, Elizabeth, Zechariah…But who is the pre-eminent Lady of the days before Christmas? The Blessed Virgin Mary, of course.

We have tried to keep our lives quiet and prayerful ever since the sun set on November 26th. Now is the time for us to kick that into a higher gear.

Let’s try to live the next eight days as if they were the eight days before the first Christmas. The Blessed Virgin has invited us to accompany her through those eight days, living them with her, reading the words of the prophets as if we were listening to her read them aloud to us, praying psalms as if she were praying them, hearing the narratives of the gospels as if we were there.

May she lead us to a merry Christmas day.