Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On Amminadab and Nahshon: Christmas Eve Contemplations

Today is Christmas Eve. Christians around the world are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Whether you believe in this guy's miracle conception or not, His presence as a good, good man is pretty easy to acknowledge. Whether you hold that He was a literal Son of God, it's hard to doubt His power as a revolutionary fellow who sought to bring light and love and justice to the world, right? The guy worked really hard to challenge people in power and transform the way we conceive of glory, goodness, success, wealth. He met people in their poverty, in their brokenness, in spaces where they felt most crippled and unworthy to be, and He loved them. In doing so, He allowed the most horrible, wretched, weak among us, to know love -- to feel worthy, in a space of seeming unworthiness. He invited us all to consider our own broken and simultaneous beloved nature. Who wants to argue or disagree with this? Don't we all want to be loved at some point in time? Don't we all want to be accepted as the crazy, mixed-up, beautiful lot that we are? I will speak for myself -- I do!

But I don't know. I just think the guy has a good story and I'm a sucker for a miracle any day of the week, especially ones where angels and lovers come together. Jesus, Mary, Joseph: they rock in my book. The Angel Gabriel - he rocks. Elizabeth and Zachariah, their baby, John: all rock. Each of their stories is layered with these amazing elements that challenge all notions of reason, and invite us into mystery. A barren woman conceives. A virgin lady finds herself with child. Baffled men have dreams that change the course of their lives. (Joseph didn't have to stay with Mary, right? Zachariah didn't have to speak John's name and support this cousin-to-Christ coming, did he?) I love these stories, people!

What I'm meditating on today, though, aren't these familiar figures central to the Christmas story. What I'm holding this morning in my prayer and contemplation, are a couple folks I've never spent any time on: Amminadab and Nahshon.*

Now who knows Amminadab and Nahshon? Seriously! Who has ever heard of these people? I'm waking to read my scripture for the day, and I'm pouring over the first chapter of Matthew's Gospel, and I come across this litany of names, that details the genealogy of Jesus, and I'm struck by "Amminadab" and "Nahshon." I mean, there's a whole host of names I barely recognize, but these two stand out to me.

"Meet my great uncle 'Amminadab.'" Or "Mom and dad, I'd like you to meet my boyfriend, Nahshon." These are the sentences that come into my imagination and make me giggle. Who has a great uncle Amminadab? Who has ever dated a Nahshon?! Maybe it's because I just spent the past week in Ghana with a gorgeous fellow named "Saddam" who turned out to love Jesus and woke me up each morning with cheesy contemporary Christian tunes. Maybe these names attach themselves somehow to this recent perplexing or surprising experience of love, and it just makes me happy. Or, maybe it's because I just like the notion of Jesus descending from some regular blokes with names that make me laugh. Or perhaps it's that I often wonder what my greater purpose is on this planet, and maybe just maybe, I could be Amminadab -- or in fact, might marry Nahshon, and give birth to a really amazing baby that goes on to inspire people for centuries....

Who knows?!

I just go this direction in my musings this Christmas Eve morning, and it makes me happy.

Who are you in this Christmas story? Who are these figures in your imagination? What names strike you? What does any of this old and familiar, or new and funny narrative inspire in your heart and mind?

Happy Contemplating! Merry Christmas! Blessed Hannukkah! Big Love this Season to All -- no matter what you believe!

Mt 1:1-25

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah,
whose mother was Tamar.
Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,

Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David
is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile,
fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Christ,
fourteen generations.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
"Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means "God is with us."
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus.


Authentic Educator said...

Welcome back home! I thought of you today when I wrote my post.

Sr. Rafael Tilton said...

Dear Melissa,
It's true, Christmas brings many strange people and peoples together and what a miracle somebody is interested. I love genealogy, and I like to pass on the stories. Today it's Simeon and Anna. i say, they probably were the ones who alerted Herod that somebody important was in the neighborhood and had just come in from Bethlehem, and got the whole unfortunate sequel going. But it's stories like that that get guys like Jesus going strong, isn't it?
I'm always glad to read your contemplations. I don't contemplate well over the keyboard, and so you can just be content to get the sparse returns I send you. They always come with my love and prayers,
And Peace
And All Good,
from Sr. Rafael