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An Advent Reflection

I recently attended a celebration in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where 16 women and men over the age of 60 were honored. All of them are ordinary citizens doing what they can to make the world a better place. They are business owners, fire fighters, ministers, professors, advocates for crime prevention, for the elderly, for those who are poor and/or homeless, Boy Scout leaders, surgeons, and artists. In reflecting on five pictures that each one chose to share with those of us gathered, each one briefly shared his/her story of what motivates them, who is important to them, and why they do what they do – even after retirement. Every last one of them spoke about faith, the gifts they’ve been given by God, and how they feel called to share those gifts. Some spoke of joy and opportunities; others spoke of tragedy and heartache; all spoke of being incredibly blessed in life. Their names are Barry, Donna, Karen, Leonard, Bob, Barbara, Kate, Priscilla, Larry, Gwendolyn, Jack, Robbie, Jarrett, Joann, Marian, and Micki.

Matthew’s Gospel is the only one that gives the genealogy of Jesus. He was showing his community of Jewish Christian believers how the salvation of our world was established through life, death, love, struggle, faith, heartache, and relationship of ordinary people. He traces Israel’s history from its beginning with Abraham, through its high point with King David, to its low point in the Babylonian exile, and finally to its fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah, who is called Emmanuel, a name which means “God is with us.”

Many of us think, “I’m not anyone special. I don’t have any special gift. I’m not worthy. What do I have to offer in making the world a better place?” The characters who make up the family tree of Jesus are not unlike our own family characters or even unlike ourselves. They were people living daily life in all its joys and sorrows, brokenness and healing, loving and forgiving. It was from them that Jesus the Christ came to be born in our midst. The branches of that family tree continue to grow in the Body of Christ of which we are members. Instead of thinking we have nothing to offer, let’s live in the wonder and awe of the countless ways that God desires to and can use us to continue to bring about the plan of salvation. If Emmanuel can come from such a cast of characters, imagine how Christ continues to come to dwell among us and in us today!