Daily Reading & Meditation


Vigil of Christmas (December 24): "He will save his people from their sins"

Scripture: Matthew 1:1-25 (alternate readings for Christmas: Luke 2:1-14; Luke 2:15-20; John 1:1-5,9-14)

Genealogy of Jesus: 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abi'jah the father of Asa, 8 and Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

Birth of Jesus: 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; 19 and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; 21 she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5

1 For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. 2 The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the LORD will give. 3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. 4 You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;  but you shall be called My delight is in her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

Meditation: On the night of the vigil for the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians throughout the world rejoice in the good news that God has sent us the best of heaven's gifts - his own beloved Son who became a human like us in order to lay down his life for our sake as the atoning sacrifice for our sins and the sin of the world. Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah and Redeemer - the one who would deliver the children of Abraham from slavery to sin, oppression, and death. Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world - the hope of the nations who seek peace, truth, and righteousness rather than hatred, prejudice, greed, and corruption. Jesus Christ is the glory of the heavenly Father who brought the light of his Son to a world blinded by deception, ignorance, stubborn pride, and rebellion (Isaiah 60:1-3,19).

Jesus is the direct descendant of Abraham and King David
In telling the story of Jesus' nativity Matthew begins his Gospel account with the genealogy of Jesus - his family tree. Matthew traces Jesus' lineage from Abraham, the father of God's chosen people, through the line of David, King of Israel, to "Joseph, the son of David" (Matthew 1:20). Joseph, however is not the natural father of Jesus. Matthew tells us that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary. Luke in his Gospel account tells us that Mary was also of the line of David. Jesus the Messiah is the direct descendant of Abraham and David, and the rightful heir to David's throne.

Jesus is the long-expected Messiah and Savior
In the coming of Jesus, we see the fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham and to David that he would send a Savior whom he would anoint as king and savior who would rule forever. When Jacob, the great-grandson of Abraham, blessed his twelve sons, he foretold that Judah would receive the promise of royalty which we see fulfilled when David, a descendant of Judah, was chosen as the anointed King for Israel (Genesis 49:10). We can see in Jacob's blessing and in the promise made to David a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah and Ruler whom the Father would send to save his people from sin, Satan, and death.The Lord Jesus came not only to restore Israel but to save the nations. Do you recognize the Lord Jesus as the fulfillment of all God's promises?

When Israel and the House of David rebelled and turned away from God, God described his people as a deserted and forsaken wife (Isaiah62:4). God, however did not abandon nor forget his people. The prophet Isaiah foretold a time of deliverance when the Messiah would come to his people as their Bridegroom who would delight in restoring and uniting them as his Bride (Isaiah 61:10, Revelations 21:2). This work of restoration would extend to all the nations as well. We begin to see the fulfillment of that prophecy when the angel announced the coming of the Messiah first to the virgin Mary and then later to her espoused husband, Joseph (Matthew 1:18-23).

Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary
When Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah she had to face an enormous challenge to her faith and trust in God, and to the faith of her family, as well as the faith of Joseph, the man she had chosen to marry. She was asked to assume a burden of tremendous responsibility. It had never been heard of before that a child could be born without a natural father. Mary was asked to accept this miraculous exception to the laws of nature.That required faith and trust in God and in his promises. Second, Mary was not yet married. Pregnancy outside of wedlock was not tolerated in those days. Mary was only espoused to Joseph, and such an engagement had to last for a whole year. She was asked to assume a great risk. She could have been rejected by Joseph, by her family, by all her own people. Mary knew that Joseph and her family would not understand without revelation from God. She nonetheless believed and trusted in God's promises.

God reveals to Joseph - and to us - the miraculous conception and mission of Jesus
Joseph, a just and God-fearing man, did not wish to embarrass or punish his espoused wife, Mary, when he discovered that she was pregnant. To all appearances she had broken their solemn pledge to be faithful and chaste to one another. Joseph, no doubt took this troubling matter to God in prayer. He was not hasty to judge or to react with hurt and anger. God rewarded him not only with guidance and consolation, but with the divine assurance that he had indeed called Joseph to be the husband of Mary and to assume a mission that would require the utmost faith, confidence, and trust in Almighty God.  Joseph believed in the divine message to take Mary as his wife and to accept the child in her womb as the promised Messiah.

Like Mary, Joseph is a model of faith for us. He is a faithful witness and servant of God's unfolding plan of redemption. Are you ready to believe in the promises of God, even when faced with perplexing circumstances and what seems like insurmountable problems? God has not left us alone, but has brought us his only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us celebrate Christmas, the feast of the Incarnation (when "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us... the only-begotten Son from the Father" John 1:14), with joyful hearts, and let us renew our faith and hope in God, and give thanks for his work of redemption.

"Lord Jesus, you came to set us free from the power of sin, death, and Satan. You give us the hope of abundant life and joy with you forever. May I always rejoice in your saving work and trust in your plan for my life".

Psalm 89:2-5, 15-16, 27, 29

2 For your steadfast love was established for ever, your faithfulness is firm as the heavens.
3 You have said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant:
4 `I will establish your descendants for ever, and build your throne for all generations.'" [Selah]
5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
15 Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O LORD, in the light of your countenance,
16 who exult in your name all the day, and extol your righteousness.
27 And I will make him the first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth.
28 My steadfast love I will keep for him for ever, and my covenant will stand firm for him.
29 I will establish his line for ever and his throne as the days of the heavens.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Jesus' humanity revealed in the genealogy, by Severus of Antioch (465-538 AD)

"One must bear in mind therefore that the Evangelists, or rather the Spirit speaking through them, took pains to ensure that their readers believed that Christ was truly God and truly human. Because of what they wrote, no one could possibly doubt that he is God by nature, beyond all variation, mutation or illusion, and that according to the ordered plan of God he was truly human. This is why John could say, on the one hand, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' John immediately adds, 'The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us' (John 1:1-2,14). Hence Matthew wrote appropriately, 'The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.' On the one hand he is not able to be counted simply from natural generation among families, since it is written, 'Who shall declare his generation?' (Isaiah 53:8) He is before the centuries and of one substance with the Father himself, from the standpoint of eternity. But by this genealogy he is also numbered among the families of humanity according to the flesh. For in truth, while remaining God, Christ became man without ceasing to be God, unaltered till the end of time.

"This is why there is also mention of the ancient patriarchs in the lineage, the narrative and observation of the times and vicissitudes that are indeed proper to human history. Through all this Matthew made it clear that Christ participates in our human generation and in our nature. Otherwise some might claim that he appeared in illusion and in imagination only, rather than by becoming genuinely human. Think of what might have been said if none of this had been written?" (excerpt from CATHEDRAL SERMONS, HOMILY 94)


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author Don Schwager 2014 Servants of the Word

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.  

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