Sermon on The Genealogy of Christ
(The Sunday Prior to Christmas)
+ Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom)
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Every year before Christmas we read the genealogy of Christ from St. Matthew's Gospel (Chapter 1), and for years I asked myself, why? Why have we got to read all these names that mean so little to us, if anything at all? And then I became more perceptive of what they convey to us.
For one thing, they are the people to whose family the Lord Jesus Christ belongs through His humanity. They all are relatives of His, and this should be enough for us to find their names deeply moving: Christ is of their blood, Christ is of their family. Each of them -- thinking of the Mother of God -- can say, 'She is a child of our family', and of Christ, 'He also is a child of our family, although He is our God, our Savior, the very Divine Presence in our midst'. Furthermore, some names stand out: names of Saints, heroes of the spirit, as well as names of sinners.
The Saints among them could well teach us what it means to believe; not simply to have an intellectual faith, a world-outlook which coincides, as far as it is able, with God's vision, but a faith which means a complete trust in God, an unlimited faithfulness to Him, the readiness -- because of what we know of God -- to give our lives for what He stands for, for what He is. In this context think of Abraham whose faith was tested to the utmost. How difficult we find it to give to God something of ours: but Abraham was asked to bring as a blood-offering his own son -- and he did not doubt God (Genesis 22: 1-19). And Isaac? He surrendered without resistance, in perfect obedience to his father, and through him -- to God.
We can remember the struggle of Jacob with the Angel in the darkness (Genesis 32: 22-32), as we at times struggle for our faith, for our integrity, for our faithfulness, in the darkness of the night, or the darkness of doubt, in the darkness that seizes us at times on all sides.
But we can also learn something from those who in history, in the Bible, appear to us as sinners. They were frail, this frailty conquered them, they had no strength to resist the impulses of their bodies and of their souls, the complex passions of men. And yet,... they believed in God passionately. One of them was David, and one of his Psalms expresses it so well: "From the deep I cry unto Thee ..." (Psalm 130:1). From the depths of despair, of shame, from the depths of his fall, from the depths of his alienation from God, from the darkest depths of his soul he still cried to God. He does not hide from Him, he does not go away from Him, it is to Him he comes with this desperate cry of a desperate man. And others, both men and women, have this same concreteness as, for instance, Rahab the harlot (Joshua 2 & 6), and so many more.
Do we, when we are at the darkest point of life, when we are wrapped in all the darkness that is within us -- do we, from within this darkness turn to God and say: 'It is to You, Oh Lord, I cry! Yes -- I am in darkness, but You are my God. You are the God who created the light, and the darkness, and You are within the darkness as You are within the blinding light; You are in death as You are in life; You are in hell, as You are on the Throne; and from wherever I am I can cry to You.'
And then, there is a last thing I would like you to think about. To us these people are names; of some of them we know a little from the Bible, about others we know nothing. But they all were concrete human beings, men and women like us, with all our frailty and all our hope, all the wavering of the will and all the hesitations, all the incipient love that is so often marred, and yet remains light and fire. They are concrete and real, and we can read their names with the feeling, that, 'Yes -- I don't know you, but you are one of those who are of the family of Christ, concrete, real, who through all the vicissitudes of life, inner and outer, belong to God.' And we ourselves can try and learn, in the concreteness of our lives, whether we are frail or strong at a given moment, still to be God's own.
So let us reflect on this genealogy, let us next time we come to hear it receive it with a spark in our eyes, with a warm feeling in our hearts; but this will be possible only to the extent to which Christ becomes more and more real to us, and when it is in Him and through Him that we discover them all -- real, living, our own and God's own. Amen.