All in the Family—a reflection on the biblical genealogies for Advent

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. ~ Mt 1:1

Who are all these people? Upwards of fifty ancestors of Jesus are mentioned in Matthew’s extensive genealogy, and while a few of them are boldface biblical names—Abraham and Isaac, David the king, Solomon, Joseph the husband of Mary—most of them remain obscure and unknown. Quick, raise your hand if you recognize Nahshon or Eliakim! Most of these men and women (for the inclusion of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba in the ancestral account was unusual, to say the least) did not make headline news, yet each of them had a role to play in the history of salvation.


As George Eliot observes in Middlemarch, “The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who led faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” There are many people who have gone before us, both in our biological and spiritual families, who have quietly and obscurely served God, loved others, and increased the amount of good in the world.

RELATED: To subscribe to these Advent reflections,sign up here and check "Digital Content Updates."

A widowed young mother who supports other family members despite her own penury, an accountant in a small firm who reaches out to troubled young adults in her community, a monk in a remote monastery who devotes his energy to work and prayer—each of us can think of examples of our forebears who faithfully led George Eliot’s “hidden life” of love and service. Let us give thanks for them when we pray and ask God to help us emulate their example.

RELATED: Read all of our Advent reflections for 2016

O God of every living creature, Grant that I may be ever mindful of the generosity and sacrifice of those who have gone before me, and make me, like them, an instrument of your peace. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.


The latest from america

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, is pictured in a 2017 photo (CNS photo/Bob Roller) 
The case shows the mystifying complexity of the human person—or at least this human person.
James Martin, S.J.July 16, 2018
A front-page article published July 16 detailed the alleged abuse of two seminarians in the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, by then-Bishop Theodore E. McCarrick.
Elsie Fisher (photo: A24)
Bo Burnham’s new movie is a joyous reminder that 13 is not, in fact, the best year of your life.
John AndersonJuly 16, 2018
A couple gets married in Stockholm, Sweden, in this 2013 file photo. (CNS photo/Fredrik Sandberg, EPA) 
“The right of Catholics to express disagreement with their leaders is a right as old as Peter and Paul.”
The EditorsJuly 16, 2018