Sex Scandals and Advent

Matthew 1. 1-17

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife,
Solomon the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram,
Jehoram the father of Uzziah,
Uzziah the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah,
and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon.
After the exile to Babylon:
Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Akim,
Akim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.

This Sunday I gave the sermon for my childhood congregation, the people among whom I grew up. I gave an Advent reflection (a unique move in my religious tradition but growing more common) based upon the genealogy of Jesus given in Matthew 1.

As many are aware, Matthew's genealogy is noteworthy for two reasons. First, he mentions women, five to be exact. In itself, this is an unusual move. But even more interesting is what links the women Matthew chooses to mention. All five share a common link: Sex scandals.

Some speculate that Matthew highlights these sexual scandals to contextualize the scandal of Mary. Mary, Matthew may be arguing, isn't so different from other women in Israel's faith history. Matthew might be trying to normalize the scandal around Mary.

But I think a more interesting way to read the genealogy is that Matthew is trying to highlight the scandal.

If this is the case what does this tell us about God and the Incarnation? Presumably, God could have entered the world in a variety of fashions. We know Jesus enters the world under humble circumstances (peasant parents, occupied outpost of the Roman world, born in a stable, refugees in Egypt, raised in a backwater town, etc.), but what does it mean that God enters the world under a sexual scandal? God enters the world in the middle of small town salacious gossip. (And if you've ever lived in a small town you know what that is like.) What does it say about God that He chooses to enter the world under these particular circumstances?

I think it is a hint about where and how God begins his work in the world. Then as now. God doesn't start in churches. He doesn't start in world capitals or with superpowers. He doesn't start with the talented, powerful, rich, or famous. Rather, God starts with the poor, the alien, the immigrant, the person on the street in the cold, and with the pregnant girl being shamed by small town gossips. This is where God begins. This is the meaning of the Incarnation.

Merry Christmas.

Peace on earth.

Good will to all.

See you after the New Year.

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7 thoughts on “Sex Scandals and Advent”

  1. This is one of the greatest challenges facing the Church. In its current state as a Factory of religious industry, how does it accomodate the 'toxic waste' of tradition without imploding? It is no wonder that many Christians have the urge to step outside in order to rediscover the foundation/s of their faith.

  2. Hello again, Richard's blog!

    Did you ever read Andre Resner's article, "Christmas at Matthew's House?" You can get yourself in trouble saying those sorts of things!

  3. The other interesting thing in this account is that it is Joseph's genealogy, not Mary's. Why would this be relevant if Joseph was not the true biological father of Jesus?

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