Today we move out of the realm of religious testimony into the real world of history. Both the first and the third readings situate Jesus within the family of David.
This is a family with skeletons in its closet. Judah reneged on his responsibilities, so his daughter-in-law Tamar tricked him into impregnating her (Genesis 38). Ruth married Boaz because a closer relative spurned his responsibility to her (Ruth 4). The sons born of these women became the ancestors of David, who was himself guilty of adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11). Such was the “illustrious” family into which Jesus was born.
We may be so familiar with aspects of the Incarnation that we fail to recognize the incongruities surrounding it. The very idea that the divine would actually assume human flesh is beyond comprehension. Yet our Christian faith claims that Jesus is one of us, according to the flesh. Human nature—not just his, but ours as well—has been deemed a worthy repository of the mystery of God.
Furthermore, God did not choose people renowned for their constancy in virtue. Instead Jesus was born of a family in which some people frequently misused their positions of power and authority, others gained their rights by means of deception, still others seemed oblivious of the working of God in their lives. God chose a family not unlike our own families. In other words, the Incarnation occurred within the real world.
God chooses people who seldom fit the criteria that we might employ. Even Mary, a simple woman from a backwater town in Galilee, was an unlikely choice. The mystery of which Paul speaks is not only the fact of the Incarnation, but also the means whereby it came to be. God chooses the weak of the world to confound the strong.
As the promise made to David was handed down through the ages, that family came to be seen as an avenue of God’s goodness to others. Born of this family, Jesus became the ultimate agent of God’s blessing for all. This is the mystery now revealed, a mystery compounded by mystery. This messy world of ours, the real world of human history, is now charged with the grandeur of God. So we can greet our Lord Jesus Christ with the words: Welcome to the real world!