O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
God for whom we watch and wait,
you sent John the Baptist
to prepare the way of your Son:
give us courage to speak the truth,
to hunger for justice,
and to suffer for the cause of right,
with Jesus Christ our Lord.
Psalm 72.1-5, 18-19
Give the king your judgements, O God,
and your righteousness to the son of a king.
Then shall he judge your people righteously
and your poor with justice.
May the mountains bring forth peace,
and the little hills righteousness for the people.
May he defend the poor among the people,
deliver the children of the needy and crush the oppressor.
May he live as long as the sun and moon endure,
from one generation to another.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wonderful things.
And blessed be his glorious name for ever.
May all the earth be filled with his glory.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.
So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
The beginning of Matthew’s gospel is so often skipped over. What is the point of reading through this list of the supposed ancestors of Jesus, when the important message is that he is the Son of God himself? Every year this reading is included in the Church’s lectionary and yet, so often, it is ignored as being nothing more than an inconsequential tongue twister for the reader. But … ancestry has long been considered as important in human history. The rulers of the world have laid great store by their rightful place in a catalogue of the ‘right’ names. Professional careers have been ‘passed down’ through generations. Reputations have been sullied by the uncovering of unfortunate antecedents. The Jewish tradition of honouring ancestors is no different from our modern obsession with tracing our forebears.
The Jewish faith is proud of being able to trace its origins to their patriarch, Abraham. For Jesus to be recognized as the true Messiah, it was important that his followers should be able to demonstrate a direct lineage back to David, and then even further back to Abraham himself. That is what these opening verses of Matthew’s gospel achieve … whether they can be proved to be completely accurate or not.
Human beings like to have a sense of ‘where they come from’. There are television and radio programmes, as well as an increasing number of internet based resources that guide us through the complicated highways and byways of genealogy. People become fixated with finding the next step in the history of their families. The further back we are able to trace our ancestors, the greater the sense of achievement we find ourselves experiencing. We gasp with admiration when researchers prove that some media personality can trace their families back to medieval royalty, or beyond. That fascination is being highlighted in today’s reading. However, there is a different way of examining these words.
Before the establishment of the Jewish nation, the book of Genesis gives us an account of God’s creation of the whole human race. Whether we have a literal belief in the early accounts of Adam and Eve, or not, is irrelevant. The important words in Genesis are: So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. In the light of these momentous words, everything that has happened since is irrelevant. It does not matter who our earthly parents were, or what twists and turns our ancestry took as the centuries passed. The important thing is that we are all children of God, just as Jesus himself was, and is, the Son of God.
Let us pray that we might never forget our true Father, the heavenly Father who created us and gave everything for our redemption.
Prayers of intercession
Having received the revelation of God through his holy word entrusted to human hands, we pray, confident in his care for all people.
As the prophets foretold the coming of Christ, and the Baptist declared his presence, empower your Church to make him known at this present time. Guide us with wisdom and understanding in the reading of your word revealed in holy scripture.
Enlighten the people of this world with repentance for past wrong and a new resolve for good. Fulfil in our time the promise of peace and reconciliation.
Open our eyes to find your word for us in Bible reading. In all our dealings with one another, enable us to speak the truth in love, to be witnesses of faith to all whose lives touch ours.
May the present comfort of your holy word and the hope of future glory bring strength to those who suffer. Give them relief through the power of Christ, healing all their ills and making all things new.
Grant that the souls of the departed may share the joy of all who have witnessed to the message of salvation. We give thanks for those who have gone before to prepare for us the way of peace.
We offer our words of prayer, that they may be acceptable in the name of the Word made flesh for us.
Prayer for the week
Father in heaven, the day draws near
when the glory of your Son will make radiant
the night of the waiting world.
May the lure of greed not impede us from the joy
which moves the hearts of those who seek him.
May the darkness not blind us to the vision of wisdom
which fills the minds of those who find him.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.