We should all read the Bible. We know that the Bible is the inspired word of God. The Bible is, however, not an easy read. A lot of us have, at some point in our lives, have taken on the task of trying to work through the whole book, beginning to end. We start with the creation narratives, which are really interesting, and the stories about Enoch, about Noah and the flood, but then we get to chapter 10 of Genesis.
When I was in the seminary, we called this kind of passage the “begets” – Sam begot Frank, Frank begot George, George begot so and so, and it goes on. Scripture scholars call these passages genealogies. They are tough going for most of us and they come up throughout the Old Testament. The exciting parts about Abraham, Moses, King David, etc. are divided up by “begets.” For Christians trying to read the Bible and get a deeper understanding of our faith, begets make us want to tear our hair out.
The genealogies, however, serve an important purpose. They link together narratives that cover centuries. The Old Testament is not a collection of short stories. It is the history of the presence of God in human history.
What gives this story continuity is, of course, the presence of God. In the ancient world, and hopefully, in our world, the tangible sign of continuity is family. Family should connect us across time, and geography and the genealogies in the Bible are meant to show us that there is only one story.
If you went to Christmas Eve Mass and had the privilege of hearing the whole Gospel (not the kid’s version), you heard the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Christmas Eve is one of the main reasons God put deacons in the Church. Priests don’t like to read the Matthew Gospel with all of those strange names. But, think about this: why does the New Testament begin with a genealogy?
These are the first words of the New Testament, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.” (Matthew 1:1). Genealogies, as family history, are supposed to give us the sense of continuity we get from family, passed from parents to children, to grandchildren, and on and on. The birth of Jesus Christ, as savior and Lord, did not come out of nowhere. All of human history has been a preparation for Christmas, the coming of God among human beings.
In the joyful, and sometimes stressful, Christmas season, we need to hold onto that idea of continuity. Christmas is about Easter. The Divine Word tells us Jesus Christ came into the world to make the sacrifice by which our sins can be forgiven, and we are reconciled to God. Also, we need to remember, He is still here. He promised to be with us here and now (Matthew 28:20).
The Church is the body of Christ. We experience His presence most tangibly at Mass where our offering of bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Christ. Christ is present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the sacrifice of the Mass.
God acts continuously in our lives, but He also gives us family as a more simple and tangible form of continuity. No matter what problems we have in our families, we know what family is supposed to be: people we can depend on, people we love unconditionally. That doesn’t always work on the human level, but we remember that, by our baptism, we are made part of the family of God, the Church.
In the busy, joyful, confusing torrent of Christmas, let’s all try to take a few minutes and think about our relationship with God, look around at the people in our lives, and rethink what it means to be part of a family, the family of God.