Advent is one of my favorite times of the year. It spans the spiritual life, inviting us to prayerful penitence and joyful anticipation. In this four-part series, I want to focus our attention on some often overlooked aspects of this amazing season and the even more amazing story behind it.
The Mothers of Christ
Advent is a time I grow in my appreciation for Mary, the Mother of Christ and motherhood in general. In the sweeping story of salvation there were many mothers that made Christ’s adventus (arrival) possible for us.
Matthew’s genealogy highlights some of Christ’s special mothers (Matthew 1:1-17). We tend to avoid or skip over genealogies, thinking they are about as interesting as reading a column of the phone book (do people still have phone books?). The procession of names isn’t intended to be a comprehensive genealogy, but rather a selection of important people, many of them serving as a clue to Jesus’ mission and message.
Breaking with traditional genealogies, Matthew highlights four female figures, each an ancestral mother of Christ that lead us to Mary. Instead of choosing the famous matriarchs like Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel, the Gospel writer chooses women whose lives were filled with shame and pain (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba). They endured prostitution, widowhood, and even rape. They were “outsiders,” foreigners brought into God’s family through faith and the Lord’s providence. They are a revelation of God’s love in Christ that would soon break into our world to bring healing and wholeness, setting us free from our shameful pasts. Their stories reach their fulfillment in the final mother of the genealogy: Mary. In her Magnificat, Our Lady speaks of God’s “mercy on those who fear him in every generation” like Rahab of Jericho and Bathsheba the Hittite. She praises the Lord who has “lifted up the lowly” like Tamar and “filled the hungry with good things” as he did for Ruth (Luke 1:46-55).
There are many lessons we could draw from this genealogy. Let me propose just a couple for the Advent season.
- How may this season of Advent invite me to give Jesus and Mary all the “messiness” of my personal history: all of the brokenness, pain, and shame and to trust that it can be redeemed and to find wholeness in Christ?
- Ask the Lord to show you the “mothers” around you that have Christ hidden within, like Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Reach out to them in concrete ways with generosity and mercy.
- Thank the Lord for the many “mothers” the Lord has made part of your own saving story. If they have passed on, pray for their souls. If they are alive, make a point to do something special for them this Advent season.
- Finally, in all the busyness that is about to come upon us, carve out some special time for Mary in your spiritual life. At the Cross, she became the Mother of all the faithful (see Evangelic Gaudium 285). Rest in her maternal arms, bring her your needs, and ask her to fill you with her love, tenderness, and joy this season.
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