Archive for the ‘Matthew 1’ Tag

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A   35 comments

Above:  King Ahaz

Emmanuel:  God is With Us, and We Need to Be With God

DECEMBER 22, 2019


Isaiah 7:10-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying,

Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.

But Ahaz said,

I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.

Then Isaiah said:

Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,

you who lead Joseph like a flock!

You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth

before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.

Stir up your might,

and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;

let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?

You have fed them with the bread of tears,

and given them tears to drink in full measure.

You make us the scorn of our neighbors;

our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;

let your face sine, that we may be saved.

But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,

the one whom you made strong for yourself.

Then we will never turn back from you;

give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O LORD God of hosts;

let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Romans 1:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew 1:18-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means,

“God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Here is the historical background of the reading from Isaiah:

The Kings of Aram (or Syria) and Israel (the northern Hebrew kingdom) planned to create an alliance of states to oppose the Assyrian Empire, a major power in 735 B.C.E.  When King Ahaz of Judah did not join this effort the forces of Aram and Israel attempted to overthrow him and to place a more compliant monarch on the throne.  This situation concerned Ahaz (understandably so), and he turned to Assyria, not God, for protection.  Ahaz put on airs of righteousness, making a show of not asking God for a sign.  Yet, as Isaiah stated, God would send a sign anyway.  An almah, or young woman of marriageable age (married or not, virgin or not left undefined) would give birth to a healthy baby boy, and the kingdom would be out of immediate danger by the time the child could able to “reject the bad and choose the good.”

Thus the birth of a child became a sign of deliverance from certain death.

Confronting and dealing with Assyria was foolish.  The Assyrian Empire conquered Aram, deprived Israel of much territory, and made Judah a dependency.  Trusting in God would have been a better choice.

That is a timeless lesson.

Written on June 2, 2010.

Advent Devotion for December 18   14 comments

Above: Mary and Child Jesus, by Pierre Mignard, 1640

There Are No Illegitimate Children

DECEMBER 18, 2019



The days are coming,

says the LORD,

when I shall make a righteous Branch spring from David’s line,

a king who will rule wisely,

maintaining justice and right in the land.

In his days Judah will be kept safe,

and Israel will live undisturbed.

This will be the name given to him:

The LORD our Righteousness.

Therefore the time is coming,

says the LORD,

when people will no longer swear “by the life of the LORD who brought the Israelites up from Egypt”; instead they will swear “by the life of the LORD who brought the descendants of the Israelites back from a northern land and from all the lands to which he had dispersed them’; and they will live on their own soil.


For he will rescue the needy who appeal for help,

the distressed who have no protector.

He will have pity on the poor and the needy,

and deliver the needy from death;

he will redeem them from oppression and violence

and their blood will be precious in his eyes.

May the king live long!

May gifts of gold from Sheba be given him.

May prayer be made for him continually;

blessings be his all the day long.

May there by grain in plenty throughout the land,

growing thickly over the heights of the hills;

may its crops flourish like Lebanon,

and the sheaves be plenteous as blades of grass.

Long may the king’s name endure,

may it remain for ever like the sun;

then all will pray to be blessed as he was;

all nations will tell of his happiness.


This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; before their marriage she found she was going to have a child through the Holy Spirit.  Being a man of principle, and at the same time wanting to save her from exposure, Joseph made up his mind to have the marriage contract quietly set aside.  He had resolved on this, when an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home with you to be your wife.  It is through the Holy Spirit that she has conceived.  She will bear a son; and you shall give him the name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

All this happened in order to fulfill what the Lord declared through the prophet:

A virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he shall be called Emmanuel,

a name which means

God is with us.

When he woke Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had directed him; he took Mary home to be his wife, but he had no intercourse with her until her son was born.  And he named the child Jesus.


Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The birth of Jesus was a great scandal, one which persisted for decades.  The question of his paternity was a matter of whisper campaigns until the end of his life, at least.  I admit freely that I have major doubts relative to the virgin birth, so I cannot say with intellectual honesty that I believe it.  Yet that matter is trivial, and let us not become caught up in trivia.

Human societies have labels for children conceived outside wedlock.  These are allegedly “illegitimate” people.  And the males are “bastards.”  This more, which has some well-founded roots in family structures and inheritance laws, helps explain the term “son of a gun,” also.  Do not misunderstand me; I do not support indiscriminate sexual contact and conception of children.  There are vital matters of morality and family order to consider.  Yet there are no illegitimate people, for all of us bear the image of our divine Father, regardless of which male contributed half of our DNA.

Neither should people resort to threatening the life of the mother when paternity is in question.  This is a current issue in certain traditional societies in contemporary times.  Barbarous behavior is not an appropriate answer to alleged sexual immorality; two wrongs do not make a right.

This is an unlikely origin story for a king, but Jesus was no ordinary monarch.  No, he was much, much more.



Advent Devotion for December 17   11 comments

Above: The Jesse Tree Window at Chartres Cathedral, Chartres, France

Jesus, Our Sovereign with a Mixed Heritage

DECEMBER 17, 2019



Gather round me and listen, you sons of Jacob;

listen to Israel your father.

Judah, your brothers will praise you;

your hand will be on the neck of your enemies.

Your father’s sons will bow to you in homage.

Judah, a lion’s whelp,

you have returned from the kill, my son;

you crouch and stretch like a lion,

like a lion no one dares rouse.

The sceptre will not pass from Judah,

nor the staff from heaven his feet,

until he receives what is his due

and the obedience of the nations is his….


God, endow the king with our own justice,

his royal person with your righteousness,

that he may govern your people rightly

and deal justly with your oppressed ones.

May hills and mountains provide your people

with prosperity in righteousness.

May he give judgment for the oppressed among the people

and help to the needy;

may he crush the oppressor.

May he fear you as long as the sun endures,

and as the moon throughout the ages.

May he be like rain falling on early crops,

like showers watering the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish,

prosperity abound until the moon is no more.


The genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac of Jacob, Jacob of Judah and his brothers, Judah of Perez and Zarah (their mother was Tamar), Perez of Hezron, Hezron of Ram, Ram of Amminadab, Amminadab or Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon, Salmon of Boaz (his mother was Rahab), Boaz of Obed (his mother was Ruth), Obed of Jesse; and Jesse was the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon (his mother had been the wife of Uriah), Solomon of Rehoboam, Rehoboam of Abijah, Abijah of Asa, Asa of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat of Joram, Joran of Uzziah, Uzziah of Jotham, Jotham of Ahaz, Ahaz of Hezekiah, Hezekiah of Manasseh, Manasseh of Amon, Amon of Josiah; and Josiah was the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

After the deportation Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel of Abiud, Abiud of Eliakim, Eliakim of Azor, Azor of Zadok, Zadok of Achim, Achim of Eliud, Eliud of Eleazar, Eleazar of Matthan, Matthan of Jacob, Jacob of Joseph, the husband of Mary, who gave birth to Jesus called Messiah.

There were thus fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David until the deportation to Babylon, and fourteen from the deportation until the Messiah.


Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


At this juncture the Episcopal Church’s Advent lectionary begins its final phase:  readings grouped according to date.  The final countdown to Christmas Day commences.

The Book of Genesis begins with mythical tales of divine creation then continues with stories of human procreation–hence genealogies.  Creation is the theme running through the early chapters of that book.  Matthew, the most Jewish of the canonical Gospels, opens with a genealogy of Jesus.  This is no accident, but a profoundly significant fact.  It indicates the dawn of a new age in history.  Along the way, one reads about kings (both good and bad), whose names establish Jesus’ credentials as a member of the House of David.  And one reads about Bathsheba (who cheated on her husband, Uriah, with King David), Ruth (a foreigner), Rahab (a prostitute), and Tamar (a young widow who pretended to be a sacred prostitute so she could trick Judah, her father-in-law, to impregnate her).

What are we supposed to make of all this?

Jesus, our Lord and Savior, the incarnate Son of God, was descended genetically from upright men and women, shady characters, kings, commoners, adulterers, at least one adulteress, a prostitute, a Gentile, and a widow who had to resort to deception to become pregnant and establish security for herself in a patriarchal society without a social safety net.  Jesus’ pedigree was not entirely socially respectable.  And that fact was ultimately irrelevant to his greatness.  He was much more than the sum of his ancestry.

So I invite everyone to look upon others for what is inside them, not for their origins.