First Sunday of Christmas – January 01 2023

Posted on January 3, 2023, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

Sermons are preached within the context of a particular worship service, and are most meaningful when experienced in that way. We encourage you to view or listen to the entire worship service. 

January 01, 2023

First Sunday of Christmas 

Matthew 1:1-17
Psalm 132:11-12

Worship Service Video Sermon  Video Sermon  Audio

Sermon Text:

Grace to you and peace from God, our Creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

One of the things I love about the church calendar is the way the seasons don’t always match up with the world’s calendar. For example, it’s still Christmas in here even though most of the world has moved on to whatever is next. When I was grocery shopping last week, the “seasonal section” was starting to fill up with things for Valentine’s Day. This calendar “mismatch” allows us to linger in the season and take a deeper look at the stories that are part of it.

A couple of weeks ago, we heard the story of Joseph’s first dream and his part in the nativity story. And today we hear the part that comes before it – the very beginning of Jesus’ story in Matthew’s gospel. It doesn’t quite seem to fit with Christmas; but for Matthew, telling Jesus’ story begins with remembering who came before him.

When Matthew wrote this gospel in about the year 84-85CE, Christianity was just beginning to be established as its own faith tradition. It was starting to take on its own identity as a church. So Matthew began with telling the faithful who Jesus was as a person, and he did that by reminding them that Jesus’ humanity descended from real people.

When we read the names in Jesus’ genealogy – and thank you to ?? for reading them today – when we read these names, some of them stand out as “the greats”, right? Not only the patriarchs and matriarchs of Jesus’ ancestry but also of our own faith.

Matthew could have easily skipped over some of the people named here – especially the women. But instead, he reminds us that Jesus’ family isn’t perfect, that it’s made up of real people. And if you’re like me, when you heard some of the names as they were read, you probably thought to yourself, “Oh yeah – that person did this….”

Because people are more than just names on a page. Even when we read the names on our own family trees, we don’t just read the names. We remember things about them that we either experienced directly, or we remember stories that have been told to us about them. And we retell them as a way to remember who they were and the lives they lived.

And much like the names on our own family trees help us understand who we are, the people that Matthew names here in Jesus’ family tree help us understand who he is.

Abraham marked the beginning of the covenants that God made with the Israelites, and Isaac was his long-awaited son that God told him to sacrifice. Jacob was the scheming younger brother of Esau. Tamar was a woman whose ethnic background is up for debate; she slept with her father-in-law after both her husbands died so that she could bear her sons.

Rahab was a Canaanite woman who lived in the walls of Jericho and agreed to help the spies conquer the city. She’s the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth – a Moabite woman who was widowed and who became the grandmother of King David, who we know engaged in plenty of wrongdoing.

The Babylonian exile is named because of its importance in Israel’s history and the way everything changed in its wake.

And on and on the stories continue. [1]All the way to Joseph, who placed Jesus in the lineage in a way that Mary couldn’t have done because that’s just the way the world works. But the story doesn’t end there.

In these names, these people, the writer of Matthew names 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the deportation to Babylon; and 14 from Babylon to the Messiah. But if you’re counting, you’ll notice that there are only 13 generations named from Babylon to the Messiah.

Depending on who you ask, the 14th generation is either the early church that Matthew wrote to or it’s the body of Christ – which includes us today. Either way, the openness of that is empowering.

Because remembering these stories – even the faults and imperfections of just some of the people named here – helps us look ahead to the life and ministry of Jesus, to people like Mary Magdalene, Peter, James, John, and the apostle Paul. To Lydia and to Dorcas. To the people that the church has canonized as saints, to the saints in our own lives. To us as members of the body of Christ.

[2]Because, as the Rev Paul Bailie reminds us, “the child we celebrate at Christmas grows up. The one for whom we lit Advent candles in fervent anticipation becomes the wise teacher, proclaiming the reign of God. The baby boy becomes the man who is arrested, rejected, beaten, and stripped – hanging on a cross.

The one worshiped by shepherds becomes the Good Shepherd, leading us and guiding us to eternal life. The tiny human in Mary’s womb becomes the compassionate miracle-worker – healing those who are sick and feeding the multitudes with a few bread and fish.

The [baby] in the manger becomes the prophetic voice, knocking down the tables of the money changers and calling out the power of Caesar.

[As we celebrate the birth of Jesus today, we also celebrate that he] is a God to worship, a friend to know, and a story to tell.”

When we tell the story of Jesus – when we tell about his life and ministry and love and grace and mercy – it helps us remember that who Jesus is isn’t limited to the baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. That the mystery and the love of who he is goes far beyond a single day or even a season.

The story of Jesus helps us look ahead to the places Jesus is present in our own lives. In the people who walk with us, in the places we go, in the answers to our prayers. It helps us remember that Jesus is more than just a name on a page. And so are we.

The story of Jesus helps us celebrate who he was for the world when he walked the earth, and who he is for us today. It helps us celebrate the assurance of his presence and steadfast love in our lives. A presence and love that will remain with us throughout our lives. Thanks be to God! Amen.


[2] Rev Paul Bailie