“This is the genealogy of Jesus: the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt 1:1).
There is a common trope in action movies in which a main character has been seriously injured and appears to have died. The character lies motionless on the ground, while friends around him plead for him to open his eyes. After a few silent seconds that feel like an eternity, the character gasps for breath – his eyes fly open – and he reaches for a friend – alive.
That’s the effect that Matthew wanted this opening verse of the New Testament to have on his readers. God promised Abraham (in Genesis 12) that he would make a great nation out of him and that the entire world would be blessed through him. He promised David (in 2 Samuel 7) that one of his descendants would always be on the throne over the people of God. As Israel and Judah were terrorized and kidnapped
en masse by world powers Assyria and Babylon, God promised his people that a Messiah was coming who would set things right and restore life to the people of God. And yet,
centuries had passed with no Messiah in sight. To put things in perspective: the number of years between the return from exile and the birth of Jesus was twice the number of years between the signing of the Declaration of Independence and today. To say that the people of God had “waited” for the Messiah is an understatement.
And then, after centuries of silence, the New Testament opens: “This is the genealogy of Jesus: the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” This at last is the one we have waited for. Our hope was not in vain. God has kept his promises, and they will all be fulfilled in this person Jesus. It is a remarkable opening to the Christmas story.
As we enter this season of Advent, I invite you to reflect on this theme of waiting and hope. What is it that you are waiting for – longing for? Maybe you’re waiting for a wrong to be made right. Maybe you’re waiting for physical healing or for some other suffering to end. Maybe you’re waiting for a relationship to be restored. Maybe you’re waiting for a new season of life to begin. Maybe you’re waiting for God to put an end to the tremendous evil that we see in our world.
How has God in Jesus addressed this longing? In Christ, God has begun the new era of the history of the universe. Death has been defeated. Sin has lost its power. Evil does not have the last word. In his birth, Jesus became one of us – Immanuel, “God with us,” committed eternally to us. In his life, Jesus modeled and taught the way for us to live truly human. In his death, Jesus broke the power of Sin. In his resurrection, Jesus broke the power of death.
Our waiting is not in vain. Our hope is not empty.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”