Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. Luke 2:1-5
Good morning Prayer Team!
On the Sunday before Christmas each year, the Gospel lesson is taken from Matthew 1, and includes the reading of 42 generations between Abraham and Christ. Matthew’s genealogy goes from Abraham to Christ. The Gospel of Luke, in Chapter 3, also includes the ancestors of Christ. There are more generations, 76, and Luke counts the generations backward from Christ all the way back to Adam. Both lines include Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, etc. There are historical, cultural and social reasons for the divergence of number. The purpose of today’s reflection is not to examine these generations in detail or account for their differences.
As they say, we all come from somewhere, and even Jesus came from earthly ancestry. They also say we can’t pick our ancestors. Who they were and what they did are permanent, unchosen parts of who we are and where we come from. The lesson of the genealogy of Christ is that there were lots of different kinds of people in His earthly family. Some were trusting, like Abraham, who took his family and his possessions and moved because God told him to. Isaac, his son, was tricked into giving away the birthright of his eldest son to his younger son Jacob. Jacob was sneaky. He also had two wives. Salmon, who begat Boaz, did so by Rahab, who had been a prostitute. And Boaz, who begot Obed, did so through Ruth, a Gentile, in a union that would not have been favored by the society of the day. David, the King and the Psalmist, who is seen as a righteous figure on balance, also had a dark side—He seduced Bathsheba, ordered his soldiers to kill Uriah, and his son Absalom died in young age. Jechoniah was held captive for 37 years. And virtually nothing is known about Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan and Jacob.
So, in the ancestry of Christ, there were some memorable people and some forgettable ones. Some lived virtuous lives and many were far from virtuous. And there is hope and comfort in this. If Jesus Christ was descended through a line of spotless and mighty people, it would be hard to see Him as “one of us,” or “taking on our burdens.” We’ve all got some questionable ancestors in our past, and so does the Lord. We’ve also all got questionable deeds in our past. No one is perfect. But just because we have people we might not wish were part of our family tree on it, or because we have things we’ve done that we wish were not part of our past, does not mean we can’t live successfully, or grow spiritually. If the Messiah can come through a lineage of these kind of characters, well, he won’t hold it against us if there are some characters who made some mistakes in our past, or if we, ourselves, have made mistakes in our past.
Christianity, however, is not about where you’ve come from. It’s about where you are and where you are going. If you have come, let’s say, from a perfect line of ancestors, God is still going to judge you on your life, and not theirs. Knowing where you come from is important, when it comes to understanding who you are. And one other note on genealogies. It is up to each generation to sow the seed of faith into the ensuing generation. If you are reading this message and you are a Christian, you have an obligation, a sacred obligation, to make sure the line of Christianity doesn’t stop at your generation. Every generation has the obligation, and the joy, to pass the Gospel to the generation that follows.
Zion, the holy city of God, lift up your voices, truly heralding the divine, memorial of the Fathers, as you pay honor to them, Abraham and Isaac, with Jacob the acclaimed. With Judah and Levi, behold we now also magnify Moses the great one, along with Aaron the God-inspired, and we honor David and Joshua and Samuel. All of us striking up divine and sacred forefestal hymns in praise of Christ, are in earnest entreating Him that we may obtain the gift of His goodness that derives from Him who grants His great mercy to the world. (From the Praises of the Orthros of the Sunday before the Nativity, Trans. Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Have a great day!
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The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. The Prayer Team is a daily devotion written by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. Devotions include a verse from scripture, a commentary from Fr. Stavros, and a short prayer that he writes to match the topic.
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