Christmas Coptic Articles Index
The Glorious Feast of Nativity:
"When Adam had lived one hundred thirty years, he became the father of a son." (Genesis 5:3)
Society in Biblical times was organized along family and tribal lines.
Genealogy was of importance in establishing a person's lineage. Religious
importance was determined by whom your forefathers were. For example, only
the descendants of Aaron could become priests (Exodus 28:1). Temple
officials had to examine extensively the genealogy of those presented for
the priesthood. Old Testament genealogies also reminded the Israelites of
their history as the chosen people of God.
Genealogies in the Holy Bible are not meant to be an exact detailed lineage of birth nor are they always complete. For example, the list of Aaron's descendants in the Holy Book of I Chronicles 6:3-15 includes names that do not appear in Aaron's genealogy in the Holy Book of Ezra (Ezra 7:1-5). Genealogies are thought to primarily establish a family's link with the past.
There are only two genealogies in the New Testament. The Holy Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke trace the ancestry of the Lord Jesus Christ back to Abraham and Adam, respectively. Though both genealogies are not exactly alike, the ancestries were included in the Holy Gospels to emphasize that the Lord Jesus was a son of King David, which was the necessary lineage for the Messiah.
Both of the Holy Gospels show the distinction of the birth of the Newborn
Lord Jesus. St. Matthew in his Holy Gospel emphasizes the Lord Jesus' royal
lineage, listing kings in the House of David among his forebears and telling
of a miraculous star that proclaimed the coming of a new "King of the Jews"
(Matthew 2:2). St. Matthew also introduced "wise men from the East" (Matthew
2:1) that recognized the significance of the star's meaning and brought unto
the Newborn Lord gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The message of the Holy Gospel of St. Matthew is very straightforward. The Lord Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah of biblical prophecy. The Lord Jesus Christ has been born with the purpose of leading all humanity toward salvation.
St. Luke emphasized the humility of the Newborn Lord Jesus Christ. The Newborn Lord was born within lowly surroundings, a cave in the hills around Bethlehem where domestic animals were kept by night. This is where His divineness was manifested. The infant Lord Jesus' first bed was in an animal-feeding trough. His holy birth is announced neither to kings nor priests but to shepherds in the field. This is truly the Lamb of God and the True Shepherd born to lead His people.
"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." (Luke 2:10-14)
In the Holy Gospel of St. Luke we can understand the people and events that occurred during the time of birth and early life of the Lord. It is through the humanitarian aspects of the Holy Gospel of St. Luke that we see the Lord Jesus Christ concern for the sinner and the outcast, the poor, and the sick as well as for women. St. Luke further traces the ancestry of the Lord Jesus Christ through the non-royal descendants of King David.
The Holy Gospel of St. Luke is unique in its depiction of the Lord's birth. Perhaps this can be attributed to the growing lack of faith in the Christian communities resulting from their belief that the promised return of the Messiah had been delayed. Writing in Southern Greece primarily for Gentile converts to Christianity, St. Luke emphasizes the universal significance of the Holy Gospel for all mankind not only for the Jews.
Further, the other Holy Gospels called upon the immediacy of the Kingdom of God, while St. Luke writes of the Lord Jesus Christ beginning His holy ministry not by announcing the imminent coming of the Kingdom of Heaven but by the presence of the Holy Spirit working through Him (Luke 4:14).
St. Luke emulated the humbleness of the Lord Jesus Christ is a manner considered worthy of the One born to redeem mankind. St. Luke details the Lord Jesus Christ's concern and love for sinners with the confident hope of their repentance and forgiveness.
Both the Holy Gospels described how a virgin, St. Mary, betrothed to St. Joseph, mysteriously conceived the Lord Jesus Christ. They further detail how the Holy Infant was born in Bethlehem as a descendant of King David. Both Holy Gospel writers also show the Newborn Lord as the preexistent Son of God. Further, it is definitely emphasized that all this occurred in fulfillment of the ancient prophecies.
Although many often think of the town of Bethlehem as small it is definitely not insignificant. Bethlehem is known as the burial place of Jacob's wife Rachel, the birthplace of King David and above all the birthplace of the Messiah.
The genealogies differ in that St. Matthew derives the Davidic ancestry through King Solomon, son of David, while St. Luke traces the Davidic descent through another son of David, Nathan. St. Luke's genealogy goes beyond Abraham, the Father of all Nations, to Adam to emphasize the Lord's unity with the entire human race (Luke 3:38).
St. Luke describes St. Joseph as the son of Heli (Luke 3:23). St. Matthew states that Jacob begot Joseph (Matthew 1:16). Is there a conflict in Holy Gospel writing here?
In the Holy Book of Deuteronomy 25:5-6 there is mention of a law that states that the brother of a man who died without a child should marry the wife of the deceased and raise up an heir for his brother. The most probable explanation for these two verses is that Jacob and Heli were born of the same mother, but to different fathers. When Heli died following a barren marriage his brother Jacob married the widow left behind, who then became the mother of St. Joseph.
Virtually everything that is known about the life of the Lord Jesus Christ comes from only four documents, the Holy Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John. These Holy Gospels are full of information and insight into the Lord's Holy life. The Lord Jesus Christ can be seen growing and abiding in the Spirit. From walking in the wilderness, telling of parables, of challenges with the devil, performing miracles, and facing His opponents, we can view the Lord Jesus Christ's life from His Holy birth.
The Holy Gospels were not meant to provide a detailed description of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Gospels do not describe His appearance; tell of His education, nor of His psychological development. The Gospels are meant to portray Him as an icon does a saint. We identify with the Lord Jesus Christ through His sayings and teachings. The Holy Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke tell us all that we need to know of the early life of the Lord Jesus Christ.
No matter how wise or smart we may think we are, no matter how old or our position in life, we will never be able to fully understand everything about Heaven, mankind, or the universe in which we live. God has hidden the great mysteries of His wisdom from all of us, particularly those of us who believe ourselves to be wise and educated. Instead only He can choose to whom He will reveal the truths of Biblical life, how we should live, and how to gain wisdom.
I pray that with the renewal surrounding the Glorious Feast of the Nativity that we will all have the faith filled openness of St. Mary and her "Yes" to the archangel Gabriel. We will be inspired to read the Holy Bible and allow the Lord Jesus Christ to direct every thought, word, and action of our lives.
May we have the simple faith of a Small Child and keep our Christian heritage ever before us.
H.G. Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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