Bishop Ralph – Christmas 2016 – Sheffield Catholic Cathedral.
I am delighted to have this opportunity to share a short reflection on the Christmas story with you.
As we celebrate the birth of Christ, the scriptures remind us of the double origin of Jesus – human and divine. On Christmas morning we hear the Prologue of St John’s gospel in which John points us to the divine origins of Jesus. He opens his gospel with the words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God”. For John, Jesus’ family tree was the smallest ever. It consisted of three persons only: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In contrast, the genealogies of Matthew and Luke give us the inside story of Jesus’ other family tree. The genealogies have a long list of names that are almost impossible to pronounce and a real worry for the celebrant at Mass in the days leading up to Christmas! Neither Matthew nor Luke try to hide anything. They reveal that Jesus’ ancestors were a colourful group, to say the least, including liars, murderers, and adulterers! For sure, it would seem that there were at least as many sinners and saints among them!
Why did Matthew and Luke reveal these details Jesus’ family tree? Wouldn’t it have been better for them to say nothing and leave us with the image of the Trinity for Jesus’ family tree? On the contrary! They wanted to make the point that the uniquely grace-filled moment in the relationship between God and his people when God took flesh like ours, took place against the background of the heady mix of God’s abundant grace and human weakness and frailty – the grace of God, of course, always shining through.
The revelation of the background to Jesus’ human family without the gloss, as set out for us by Matthew and Luke then is deliberate. For them, it was important to know the whole story. Indeed Christmas only makes sense when we know the whole story. In telling the whole story they teach us an important lesson: the grace of God abounds and is often channelled through people like us, as frail and fragile as we sometimes are. That’s good news for me! How about you?
Peace and joy to you and all those close to you this Christmas.