Liturgy Matters – What child is this? Salvation lies in the ‘begatting’!

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Home > Media > News > Liturgy Matters – What child is this? Salvation lies in the ‘begatting’!
Liturgy Matters – What child is this? Salvation lies in the ‘begatting’!

By Michael McKenna, Director, Office of Liturgy

With its differing expressions of family, our modern culture finds many with little sense of their heritage. For Christians, recent developments in public policy may seem at odds with that inherent human desire to contextualise our identity. Perhaps this is at the heart of why, in some western countries, genealogy has become the second most popular hobby after gardening. Imagine the excitement of accurately tracing your ancestry back 4,000 years. The biblical lineage of Jesus, tracing all the way back to Adam, does just that.

It is not uncommon in parishes these days for the Christmas Eve vigil reading of Matthew’s Gospel, chronicling as it does the genealogy of Christ, to be set aside in favour of Luke’s account of the Nativity which the Church otherwise assigns to the Midnight Mass. Faced with the prospect of reading an exhaustive list of hard to pronounce names like Zerubbabel and Rehoboam, most parishes embrace the joyous possibility of engaging children in rendering a memorable recounting of the Nativity, brimming with little angels adorned in tinsel and glitter, and shepherds replete in only the finest dressing gowns and Mum’s napery.

While the ‘begats’ of Scripture attract both mirth and linguistic challenges - even for the most seasoned of parish readers - they are nonetheless significant in our appreciating, as the Magi did, the identity of the small child at the centre of our Nativity Story. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, Old Testament prophets foretold the circumstances of this particular nativity. Indeed, Isaiah’s verse (11:1) in referring to King David's father Jesse, points to Jesus as the "shoot that shall come out of the stock of Jesse".

The prophesised messiah Jesus is that Saviour who was promised throughout human history. Matthew’s genealogy, as with the one chronicled by Luke, presents him as the descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and eventually David - men to whom these prophecies were made; representing a lineage to whom God promised that all nations would be blessed through an offspring, fulfilled as we know in the birth of the Christ child (Galatians 3:7–9,16).

Within every genealogy is a story, a claim of identity, an answer to the question, “Who are you?” Where we come from matters. As we reconnect with our families this Christmas, let us spare a prayer especially for those children for whom their heritage might remain a mystery.

Wishing you every blessing this Christmas Season!