Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Our hearts today are filled anticipation, as we prepare ourselves to celebrate the Joy of the Nativity of our Savior. At the end of a long period of preparation, we now stand at the threshold of the winter Pascha...and await the moment that changes everything!
He is coming my dearest parish family…He is coming.
Our Lord’s family history, which we heard recited for us this morning, was filled with many kings and noblemen. This is a fitting lineage…since we know of course that Christ is the King of Heaven…the maker of everything that we see around us.
But when this King of Kings came into the world, He did so in a “not so king like” way. He wasn’t born in the great temple in Jerusalem…surrounded by the riches of the Jewish Kingdom. He wasn’t born on a featherbed in the middle of Herod’s palace. These were the places that the Jews were expecting Him to be born. He was the Messiah who would lead the Jewish Nation to prosperity!
He was born in a place where you and I would not dare to even sleep in our worst nightmares. He was born in a small cave, next to animals who were eating and leaving their droppings as they walked by. Instead of being put in a warm, soft, and comfortable bed, He was put into a feeding troth made out of stone.
And if the place where our savior came into the world already wasn’t filthy enough…the Gospel this morning reminds us of just how filthy mankind had become outside of the cave. The names that were read in our Lord’s family genealogy, give us a picture of both the good and bad of the human race. We hear names in that long list that should warm our hearts…names like Noah, Abraham and the Patriarchs, Boaz, Jesse, David (who I will get to in a second), Solomon, Hezekiah, King Josiah…all kinds of beautiful references that show some virtue in the midst of chaos.
But then we are reminded of the filth…some of the generations that were downright scandalous, and would belong on the cover of our TMZ or other popular social media sites. We hear of Tamar, who seduced her father in law and conceived by him because he would not marry her to his son. We hear of Manasseh, the wicked king who betrayed God and tried to turn all of His people towards idolatry. And then, St. Matthew makes a comment in his gospel this morning to point to perhaps one of the lowest points in our Lord’s Geneology, when he describes the birth of Solomon by saying:
“David begot Solomon by she who was the wife of Uriah”.
Uriah, that great soldier who had a beautiful wife. The pious man who loved his king and his nation. The patriot, who when given an opportunity to come back from the field of battle and be with his family, refused to go inside of his house and be with his wife, because his other brothers were still fighting the war. Uriah would lay outside of his doorpost and sleep in the cold, rather than comfort his wife while his brothers were fighting the battles of the nation on the field.
And St. Matthew reminds us this morning of this poor man whose wife was impregnated by the very King whom He fought for, and was sent to the front lines by David to be killed, so that the king could hide his sin.
Incest…idolatry…murder…this is the filth that our savior was born into. He had a real genealogy like we all do…filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly…and He embraced all of them and us with unconditional love. Our Lord came down to this stench…in order to raise us up. Behold the power of love and humility!
St. Ambrose of Milan wrote in the 4th century:
“He was in a manager, so that we might be able to be in the altar. He was on earth, so that we might be in the stars. And He had no place in the inn…so that we might have many mansions in paradise.”
He was born in the midst of beasts, so that we might turn from beasts who instinctively follow their passions, into rational and deified human beings. And perhaps the most stirring of all, He was born in that lowly place knowing the fate that awaited Him at Golgotha.
Our Lord knew that He was to lead a life of perpetual humiliation, one that was climaxed when the human race who He came to save, betrayed Him and nailed Him to the cross.
What more could we possibly ask from a humble savior, Who was willing to come so far…and endure so much…out of his love for mankind.
Tonight, brothers and sisters in Christ, we will gather together to celebrate and honor that love, which we most certainly do not deserve. We will come to the vigil service and weep together, realizing how fortunate we truly are to have a God who unconditionally loves us. Despite our flaws, despite our ingratitude for all of the blessings we have been given, no matter how many times we lash out at Him in anger for not getting what we want in this life, He is always waiting for us with arms extended…waiting to embrace us and welcome us into a life of perfection with Him in paradise.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, for this one Holy Day of the year…let us come together in deep and solemn prayer, not to ask anything else from our Lord….but to simply show gratitude for His humility and sacrifice…as we bask in the love that the creator has for each and every one of His creation…Amen, Amen, Amen.