The Gospel reading today tells us of the genealogy of Jesus. In the ancient world, this was an attempt to prove who Jesus is. If you could show that someone came from important and bona fide ancestors, that implied, in the minds of the ancients, that the person himself was important and trustworthy. This Gospel reading tells us who Jesus is.
Who are you?
Today we have in our minds two babies. We just witnessed the baptism of a baby boy. And we are awaiting the birth of the baby Jesus in a few days. When we put the two babies side by side, this enables us to see the true identity of all Christians. We have “put on Christ.”
In Orthros we read the following,
Make ready, Bethlehem, Eden hath opened unto all. Ephratha, prepare thyself, for now, behold, the Tree of Life hath blossomed forth in the cave from the holy Virgin. Her womb hath proved a true spiritual Paradise,wherein the divine and saving Tree is found, and as we eat thereof we shall all live, and shall not die as did Adam. For Christ is born now to raise the image that had fallen aforetime.
The priest reads this same text every time he celebrates the Proskomedie (the service of preparing the bread and wine before the liturgy). We use the image of Christmas when we are preparing to receive the body and blood of Christ, and the bread is seen almost like the infant Jesus who enters the world at the Great Entrance. But what do we do in the Great Entrance? We march right back into the altar, and place the bread on the Holy Table and remember the death of Christ, and his resurrection. We show that the birth of Christ is the beginning of the trajectory leading to his death. That is who Christ is.
Today many people insist that their identity is found in what they want to do. Desire determines identity. What we can buy becomes who we are. What I like to eat and drink, which music I listen to, which brands I use, what I can consume becomes, for me, an identity issue. Identity becomes defined by how much I earn, what I can make or create or build up, how well-known and respected I am, who I love and what country, ethnicity or culture I come from.
In fact, none of these are identities. None of these things can give me any being or personhood or identity at all. They are all hopeless and tragic delusions, false identities, false selves. This is a way to lose our identity, to alienate everyone around us; a way of destroying ourselves.
What I desire is not who I am. What God desires for me, the ministry he gives me, that is who I can be. The Antitrisagion (the song we sang instead of “Holy God”) for today, since we celebrated a baptism during the liturgy, says, “as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Putting on Christ means living a righteous life of self-control, humility, repentance, service, love and empathy. Put on his way of life to be one with him.
Christ is born, glorify him by putting on Christ and following him to the cross. May the joy of the Nativity give you a vision of a new life in Christ.