Advent comes from the Latin word, “adventus,” which means, “coming” or “arrival.”
Of course, we’re talking about the arrival of Jesus. This is the promised Messiah, the One Who would take a way the sins of the world (Jn 1:29).
Matthew, as a the writer or the book that bears his name, is getting ready to put pen to paper and kick off his gospel.
Given the various literary tools he has at his disposal, you would think he would begin with something epic that would draw his readers into the more detailed content he would document later.
Instead, Matthew chooses to start with a Family Tree.
At first glance, you can’t help but question Matthew’s logic. Why would you want to raise the curtain on the story of the Messiah and accompany it with something so utterly exhausting.
But Matthew is writing to the Jews in the city of Antioch (Antioch on the Orentes [there were 16 different cities named, “Antioch” in the ancient world]). Jews identified an individual according to their genealogy. It was their “genesis” (Greek word for “genealogy”) that validated their heritage and calling. By tracing Christ’s heritage in manner that demonstrated He was a son of David and a son of Abraham, Matthew establishes in the mind of his Jewish audience Who Jesus was and why His birth, life, death and resurrection could be processed as the fulfillment of Scripture.
Fact is, Matthew choice of starting with Christ’s genealogy is completely on point, especially when you take the time to appreciate all of the nuances that communicate what a first century Jew would need to hear in order to truly believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
Let’s take a look…
A Son of David
In Matthew 1:1, Matthew starts by saying:
This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: (Matt 1:1)
By specifying Christ as a son of David, Matthew was referring back to the promise that God made to David in 2 Samuel:
The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Sam 7:11-13)
God is talking to David and in addition some specifics about the Temple, God also tells David that from among his offspring there would be a king that would reign forever.
You see it again in Isaiah 9:7:
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Is 9:7 [see also Dan 2:44])
This was the “Davidic Covenant” – a promise that the Jewish nation knew to mean that a ruler would come from the house of David and establish a kingdom that would never end.
A Son of Abraham
Matthew also underscores the fact that Jesus was a son of Abraham. This is important because God said that it would be through Abraham that all the nations of the Lord would be blessed:
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen 12:2-3)
Matthew reinforces this by doing something that wasn’t typical of the way in which genealogies were typically documented in that Matthew included women.
And what’s even more unique is that, if you were to include women in one’s genealogy, you would highlight the matriarchs, but you don’t see them anywhere. Matthew doesn’t include Sarah, the wife of Abraham or Rebekah, the wife of Isaac. But instead he references Tamar, who was the mother of Judah who was a Canaanite. Rahab was the prostitute that sheltered Joshua’s detachment who were tasked with spying out the Promised Land. Ruth was from Moab and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, may very well have been a Hittite. Not only are all these women Gentiles, in some cases they were guilty of sexual impropriety.
The message that’s being communicated here is that Christ is a Messiah for all people, regardless of race or whatever skeletons you may have in your closet.
While Shepherds Kept Their Flocks Nearby
In Luke 2:8, you see a verse that’s very recognizable given the way it’s often repeated in Christmas programs every year:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. (Lk 2:8)
Jewish Law prohibited sheep from being pastured anywhere near Israel, except for those sheet that were unblemished and thus suitable for Temple services.
The NIV Text note says,
living out in the fields. Possibly in the spring, when the baby animals were born. The flocks reserved for temple sacrifice were kept in the fields near Bethlehem throughout the year.1
The shepherds were watching over sheep that were unblemished and could therefore qualify as Passover Lambs.
Isn’t it ironic that among the first to see the baby Jesus were shepherds who were responsible for the Passover Lambs – and they were now able to see the perfect Passover Lamb that God was now offering as a permanent sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin for all of mankind (1 Cor 5:7)?
It’s the fact that Christ came to save us through His sacrifice that makes Christmas the happy holiday that it is. He’s here to “…ransom captive Israel.” We were, “…in sin and error pining, ‘Till He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.”
Maybe it isn’t ironic that the first to see the Christ child were those who could appreciate the necessity of an unblemished lamb in light of its ceremonial role for the atonement of sin.
We don’t welcome a Noble Teacher or a Divine Guidance Counselor on Christmas Day, we herald the Son of David and the Son of Abraham, the Messiah Who is the Savior of the World.
That is Advent, that is the Gospel and He is Immanuel.
1. The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1985, 1995, 2002, 2008, 2011, 2020, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, p1763