Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only Start Doing

Advent 4 – Year B

An account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
descendant of Abraham,
and son of Mary the daughter of Anna:
Sarah was the mother of Isaac;
Rebekah was the mother of Jacob.
Leah was the mother of Judah;
Tamar was the mother of Perez.
The names of the mothers of Hezron, Ram,
Amminadab, Nahshon and Salmon have been lost.
Rahab was the mother of Boaz;
Ruth was the mother of Obed.
Obed’s wife, whose name is unknown, bore Jesse;
the wife of Jesse was the mother of David.
Bathsheba was the mother of Solomon;
Naamah, the Ammonite,
was the mother of Rehoboam.
Maacha was the mother of Abijam
and the grandmother of Asa.
Azubah was the mother of Jehoshaphat;
the name of Jehoram’s mother is unknown.
Athaliah was the mother of Ahaziah;
Zibiah of Beersheba was the mother of Joash.
Jocoliah of Jerusalem bore Uzziah;
Jerusha bore Jotham;
Ahaz’s mother is unknown.
Abi was the mother of Hezekiah;
Hephzibah was the mother of Manasseh.
Meshullemeth was the mother of Amon;
Jedidah was the mother of Josiah.
Zebidah was the mother of Jehoiachin;
Hamutal was the mother of Zedekiah.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon,
the names of the mothers go unrecorded.
These are their sons: Jechoniah, Shealtiel,
Zuerubbabel, Abiud, Elliakim, Azor
and Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob,
and Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

Written by Ann Patrick Ware.
Published in Frank Henderson’s Remembering the Women
(Liturgy Training Publications, 1999).

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In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Well, the fourth candle on our Advent wreath is lit,
so we know we must be getting pretty close.
And if the candles weren’t enough of a clue,
our scripture readings also indicate
that we are nearing the end of our Advent journey.
The lessons of the past three weeks
have been focused on messianic predictions,
signs of the second coming,
and wild-eyed,
locust eating
members of the Advance Team.
Now, finally, in today’s gospel lesson from Luke,
that familiar narrative of the nativity
starts to take shape,
with the story of the Annunciation.
Now, annunciation is really just a fancy word
for an announcement.
And in this context,
it is a very specific kind of announcement—
the announcement of a child joining a family.
Now, I have reached the age
when many of my close friends
are making their own annunciations.
In fact, I have annunciations
underneath a lot of my refrigerator magnets.
And I’m looking forward
to several more annunciations appearing
in my mailbox sometime in April and May.
Every time I add a new annunciation to the fridge,
it brings a smile to my face.
I say a prayer of thanksgiving
and I check out the adorable photo
and the vital stats:
Girl or Boy?
Date (and maybe time) of birth?
How many inches?
How many pounds and how many ounces?
And of course,
the name.
The inclusion of the child’s name
is really one of the few things
that these little ‘a’ annunciations
all over our refrigerator doors
have in common with
the capital ‘A’ Annunciation in Luke’s Gospel,
when Gabriel announces to Mary
that she’s going to have a baby
who will be called Jesus.
Names, as we know, are very important.
But besides the inclusion of the child’s name,
biblical annunciations are actually quite different
from modern annunciations.
The two most obvious differences are
1. Who does the announcing.
(Most modern annunciations
are made by family members, not by angels.)
2. The timing of the annunciation.
(Modern annunciations are usually made
sometime AFTER the birth,
whereas biblical annunciations are made
just before the pregnancy actually begins. )
[Fun fact: That is why the church always observes
the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25.
It always feels a little strange
to celebrate this wonderful feast day
right in the middle of Lent,
but that’s when it falls.
The early Church theologians
may not have understood women all that well,
But, bless their hearts,
they at least knew how to count backwards
9 months from December 25.]
Now, there’s a third difference
between modern annunciations
and our biblical Annunciation,
And that is the inclusion
of the heritage of the child.
Now, a modern day annunciation
will mention the child’s surname
and possibly the names of the parents.
You know: “Ellen and Andy are delighted
to announce the birth of
Andrew Scott Preston Thomas IV”
or something like that.
Middle and last names
sometimes offer clues
about the lineage of the child.
But the Annunciation in Luke’s Gospel
goes WAY further than that.
This Annunciation mentions an ancestor of Jesus
from at least 28 generations prior.
“He will be great, and will be called
the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give to him
the throne of his ancestor David.”
See, it was very important that the Messiah
be in the same family as King David.
Life had been pretty good for Israel
under King David’s rule
They had been promised another great king,
and they figured this new king
would be a lot like David.
So this Annunciation certainly drives home that point.
Because when you are waiting for a Savior
who will act like a militaristic King
and vanquish all your enemies.
And instead you get a Savior
who acts like a sacrificial lamb
and tells you to love your enemies,
it’s going to be hard to recognize him
if he doesn’t at least have the right family ties.
King David is mentioned twice
in the Annunciation story
And it’s because his connection to Jesus
is pretty important.

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By now you will have noticed the cover
of your Sunday Chimes,
Now, the piece of writing I chose for today’s cover
is not from our holy scriptures,
but it is based on the biblical genealogies
of Jesus, particularly Matthew’s version.
The difference is, of course,
that this version of the genealogy
highlights the names of the women
in Jesus’ family tree,
whereas the biblical genealogies of Jesus
focus on the names of the men.
I like this version because it lifts up
all these wonderful names
that we don’t hear very often.
I can’t even pronounce most of them,
but I like imagining all those generations
of expectant mothers, starting with Sarah,
who laughed when God told her
she going to have a baby,
and going right on through to Ruth,
who was King David’s great-grandmother.
Then from King David,
we trace the line down
through the years of mothers,
until we get to Jesus’ parents.

Now, the observant ones among you
may have noticed a bit of a problem.
This genealogy of the women in Jesus’ family tree
does not actually connect
Mary, the mother of Jesus,
to David.
And that’s because neither do Matthew or Luke
in their genealogies of Jesus.
All of these women but one
are on Joseph’s side of the family.
The line from David to Jesus
is fulfilled through Joseph, not Mary.
How can this be?
Everyone knows that God,
not Joseph,
is the real father of Jesus, right?
So how can Jesus be related to King David
if he’s not really related to Joseph?
It does seem like a problem.
Except it’s really not.

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OK, back to my refrigerator door.
There’s one lowercase ‘a’ annunciation
that reads a little differently from the others.
For privacy reasons,
I’ve changed all the identifying information,
but it goes something like:
“Karen Jackson welcomes with joy
Selam Desta Makeda Jackson.
Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
on September 7th, 2007.
Arrived home to Connecticut
on November 8th, 2010.”

Families come in all shapes
and sizes
and configurations.
My friend Karen, who is a single mom
to her adopted daughter Selam—
they are just as much a family
as my friends Ellen and Andy
and their biological son
Andrew Scott Preston Thomas IV.
My own family tree contains a stepmom,
and a half-brother,
and at least 4 step-grandparents.
But to me,
They’re all just my family.

Because, you see, blood relations
really have very little to do family,
as anyone who has ever adopted a child will attest.
It’s love, not bloodlines,
that really make a family a family.
When Mary chose to love
the baby growing inside of her,
and when Joseph chose to love
his suspiciously pregnant fiancée,
and not only that,
but to love the child
that he did not father biologically,
that’s when Mary and Joseph and Jesus
became a true family.
And that’s when Jesus
became a descendant of the house of David.
My point is that Joseph effectively adopts Jesus,
and raised him with love.
And for that reason, Joseph is Jesus’ father
and Jesus is incorporated into David’s line,
as legitimately as can be.

Love makes a family.
Love is what makes my family a family.
Love is what makes your family a family.
Love made the holy family a family.
And love is what makes THIS church family a family.
Love. Makes. A. Family.

Now, the tricky thing about all this
is that love takes effort.
It takes patience,
and forgiveness,
and hard work.
And when we open ourselves to love,
we also open ourselves to grief,
as Mary and Joseph eventually discovered,
some 33 years later,
and as many of you well know from experience.
But the beautiful thing
is that it’s worth it.
Love is totally, totally worth it.

As we all prepare for a holiday
in which many of us will be with our families
and all the joy
and yes, the stress,
that comes with them,
and others of us will be missing our families,
it is helpful to remember that
families come in all sorts of shapes,
and sizes,
and configurations.
And we create them not through bloodlines,
but through sharing with one another
the love that God has shared so generously with us.
As we prepare once more
to welcome that most special baby,
fully human, fully divine,
into our lives, and
to celebrate the mystery of the incarnation,
let us remember that love
is the only true way to make a family.
And we learn to love through the example of Mary,
who sings for us today her Magnificat,
which is a song of a love so powerful
that it turns the world upside down.
And Joseph, who stood by Mary
and loved her child as his very own.
Yes, love makes a family.
Amen.