Worthiness and humanity.

Homily 339 – 30th Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
December 23, 2018
Epistle: (328) Hebrews 11:9-10, 17-23, 32-40 (Sunday before Nativity)
Gospel: (1) Matthew 1:1-25 (Sunday before the Nativity)

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

The Sunday before Nativity we always read St. Matthew’s genealogy of our Lord.

It is more than just a test for the Priest or deacon of their pronunciation of Hebrew. What it reveals to us is that every person in the genealogy of our Lord was a sinner.

Jesus entered a sinful world. It had been sinful for a very, very long time. The genealogy goes back to Abraham, indicating that Christ was the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham that he would become the Father of many nations.

Even before Abraham the world was sinful. Cain and Abel. The times of Noah.

Every generation before Abraham. Every generation after Abraham.

One person mentioned in the Genealogy of Our Lord is also mentioned in St. Paul’s epistle on the faithful – the righteous. That is David, the King.

And we know that David was a man after God’s heart – one who pursued righteousness – and yet also fell into sin and temptation, both lust and jealousy and finally murder.

We all should identify with someone or something in the family line of Christ.

And it should tell us something joyful about our lives in Christ.

It tells us that regardless of our sinfulness, regardless of our neglect for the things of God, we are loved by God. St. John tells us so in that oft-repeated verse: For God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son.

There is some context to that verse. In John 3:14 we are reminded that Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so that the people might gaze upon it and receive healing.

For the same reason Christ was sent into the cosmos, incarnate as a human. Verse 15 of the same passage of St. John tells us that the healing of Christ is forever – eternal life.

More important, perhaps, is what is not explicitly mentioned.

Christ did not wait until humanity was righteous to enter the world. He did not wait until we are all made worthy.

We were all – are all – sinners – generations past, present and future. He entered the world anyway.

We are all unworthy, and Christ came. Not in power, not in regal honor befitting the Only-begotten Son of the One True God.

Quietly. Meekly. Humbly.

As a child born into poverty. In a stable in a place where His earthly father was from – but did not live.

Surrounded by livestock. Laid in their feeding trough.

And He spent the remainder of His life as a refugee. He fled to Egypt. When it was safe, He returned – not to Israel, but to Galilee, in Nazareth.

It fulfilled the scripture. That the Christ, the anointed one, would be from Nazareth. Not Israel. A refugee, incarnate into poverty.

We believe He will come again. In fact, in each Divine Liturgy, we offer the prayer as if that coming has already occurred.

In fact, like His procession, He comes again eternally. Don’t try to understand that statement – we can’t really ever even begin to understand it.

But we can accept and recognize that every Divine Liturgy is a second coming of Christ, and part of The Second Coming of Christ.

Just like the first incarnation – in the second He comes to a humanity fallen and sinful, to be our redemption. He comes to us.

Many of us refuse Him entry – not because we refuse to honor our King and Lord, but because we know we are unworthy of the King.

And He comes anyway.

We are sinful – and He comes anyway.

We are proud – and He comes anyway.

Not only does He come to us, He tells us not to be concerned – He will make us worthy. He will make us humble. He will make us righteous.

So that we may receive Him. That He may bring to us, by receiving Him, eternal life.

And so we approach communion with our Lord.

The prayers before communion put it very bluntly. O Lord my God, I know that I am not worthy nor sufficiently pleasing that You should come under the roof of the house of my soul, for it is entirely desolate and fallen in ruin, and You will not find in me a place worthy to lay Your head. But as You humbled Yourself from on high for our sake, so now humble Yourself to my lowliness.

We approach communion with our Lord not as a worthy people, but as a profoundly un-worthy people.

Just as He entered the world into that stable in the city of Bethlehem.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.