A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1).
As best I can recall, I did not grow up in churches that observed the season of ‘Advent.’
Perhaps they observed the season but not the language of the liturgical calendar. Perhaps they observed the season, naming it what it was, and I just wasn’t paying attention. Either way, Advent didn’t seem to hit my radar until I was in college. A few more years would pass before Advent figured prominently in my worship experience.
The essence of the season of Advent – the four Sundays before Christmas Day – is a yearning with hope and expectation. Advent is a time of waiting. It aches with a promise not yet fulfilled; it rejoices with confidence in God who makes the promise.
For most of us, waiting is an inconvenience to be avoided. We don’t like to wait or to be kept waiting. We want traffic to move. We want the next available representative to take our call immediately. We want the server to fill our water glass without being summoned. Our moment in history and our cultural context have conditioned us to think that if we’re waiting, something is wrong.
That’s why today, as we begin the season of Advent, I’d like to ask you for two minutes and twenty-six seconds of your time.
Two minutes and twenty-six seconds. I know that doesn’t sound like much. You can do anything for two minutes and twenty-six seconds, right? But what I’m asking of you may be more demanding than you think.
That Long List of Names
The first book of the New Testament comes to us from Matthew (although Mark was likely written first – but I digress). Matthew begins telling us the story of Jesus by giving us a long list of names. He works his way through a genealogy that connects Jesus with Abraham and David. Seeking to present Jesus to a predominantly Jewish audience, this painstaking pilgrimage through forty-two generations of Hebrew ancestors was very important.
It seems much less so to us – modern citizens of the highly technologized West, well trained in hurry and productivity. Most of us skip the genealogy of Matthew 1. At best we skim it, choosing to water ski on the surface rather than do a deep dive in an ocean of names we can’t even pronounce.
Today, I’m asking you not to skip that long list of names. Today, I’m asking you to read every word of Matthew 1:1-17. I did this myself a couple of days ago. I sat down and worked through every one of those seventeen verses at a deliberate and leisurely pace.
Reading Matthew’s genealogy will take you two minutes and twenty-six seconds.
Two minutes and twenty-six seconds to get a feel for nearly 2000 years of God’s faithful work in making and keeping his promises.
Two minutes and twenty-six seconds of patience and perseverance. That’s what reading Matthew 1:1-17 will require of you. Patience and Perseverance.
Patience and Perseverance
For much of my life I rushed past Advent and went straight to Christmas. The days immediately following Thanksgiving ushered me directly into the songs and stories that celebrated the birth of Jesus. I relished the ‘joy to the world’ that was possible because ‘the Lord is come.’
I never gave much thought to what it meant to yearn for his coming.
For the next couple of days we will linger with the generations of people who yearned for the one who would come and set things right, delivering them from their enemies, restoring them to their home, ruling with justice and righteousness. All of Israel’s kings were supposed to do this, representing the rule of God to God’s people. But most of them failed miserably.
We’ll enter into the patience and perseverance of God’s people as they awaited their messiah, their savior, their true king. As we look at this genealogy, you’ll notice some surprises, misfits who find a place in Jesus’s family tree but seem out of place.
In some ways all of us know what it’s like to be waiting and hoping for something yet to come. We’re waiting for this pandemic to end. We’re yearning for some kind of return to what we once knew and what we once did.
How long? No one seems to know for sure. For now, we face our days with patience and perseverance. Matthews genealogy will help us live as Advent people.
But that will require two minutes and twenty-six seconds of your time. Why not make that investment right now?
Faithful God, we ask you to grant us patience and perseverance for these days. We tend to rush straight to Christmas as a way to take the edge off of the ache of waiting. Remind us that even in our waiting you are present and active in our world and in our lives, leading us to Jesus, the light of the world. Meet us in our waiting, we ask in his name. Amen.