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Family Tree

An interpretation of The Tree of Jesse, the root from which Jesus can be traced in human family terms

Third Monday and Third Tuesday of Advent

The third Monday of Advent reading is from the earliest verses of Matthew, where the Evangelist wants to show Jesus' human gene-pile. As with all families, it's a bit of a mixed bag! Nicloa Slee's "Genealogy" captures Matthew chapter 1 verses 1 t 17 really well.....

He came from a dysfunctional family. And I’m not just talking about his mum and dad (the pregnancy out of wedlock, the pronounced age difference) No, it went back much further than that. There were more than a few skeletons in his cupboard."

Take great King David, the one they all wrote and sang about, eulogised in the histories, the family’s pride and joy. He wasn’t all he was cracked up to be, believe you me. He might have been Jesse’s golden-haired youngest, but later, he was conniving and horny, spying on his officer’s comely wife from the palace balcony and taking her for his own, sending soldiers to do away with unsuspecting Uriah returning victorious from battle. Some victory!

Prostitutes and foreigners aplenty scatter the litter: women you’d not want your daughters taking after, even if you can’t help admiring that plucky Rahab. Some came to a very sorry end. That poor Tamar! It makes me shudder to even think of her. Don’t let your children read her story, it’ll keep them awake for nights on end.

Best not to ask about the ones whose names have sunk into obscurity, for fear of what you might uncover: what unimaginable sleights of hand, sexual perversions, brutal slayings or tortures. Who now thinks of Nashon or Asa, Uzziah, Joham or Jeconiah, Matthan, Azar or Eliud? Don’t disturb their memories with your inquisitive fingers.

Keep going back and you end up at Abraham, another one no better than he ought to be and a whole heap worse. Right bastard, if you’ll pardon my English. Played off his wife as his sister, he did, had it away with his slave girl to get himself a son and then didn’t lift a finger in her defence when Sarah sent her packing into the desert in a fit of jealousy and rage. Worst of all, he was ready to kill his own precious Isaac on some highfalutin whim of the Almighty. That story has been causing trouble for generations down the family line, still keeps the menfolk and their offspring fighting.

No, not what you’d call a promising pedigree. Not surprising he didn’t turn out a happy family man. Little wonder he stayed single!

Love this "Madonna and Child" pose adopted by Joseph in this icon

On the Third Tuesday of Advent we meet Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25)

Despite his significance in Jesus’ life,

Joseph is a relatively minor figure in the New Testament.

We know a few facts about him from the canonical gospels.

We know that Joseph was a carpenter by trade,

and a descendent in the lineage of King David.

He was probably a relatively old man when Jesus was born,

since he does not appear in the gospels during Jesus' ministry.

The non-canonical Protevangelium, dated to around the 2nd century, a

ttests to Joseph's advanced age,

and also asserts that Joseph was a widower,

with grown-up children from his previous marriage.

This story is used by many of the early Church Fathers

to explain Scriptural references to Jesus' brothers

(but the word in Greek “adelphoi” can also mean “cousins”).

Carpenter's Shop, Nazareth

God our Father, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph the carpenter to be

the guardian of your incarnate Son and husband of Mary: give us grace to follow him in faithful obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord. Amen.

Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.

When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph,

but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man

and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace,

planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this,

an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

"Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife,

for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus,

for he will save his people from their sins."

All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us."

When Joseph awoke from sleep,

he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him;

he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her

until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

“Have you no pride?”, said the voice in his head,

“make her pay the price.

She’s shown you up as a silly old fool,

it doesn’t pay to be nice.”

The Mary he knew was not like that,

he couldn’t understand,

he wouldn’t purge her with the law

nor put her in the judge’s hands. John Morgan

HAIL JOSEPH - a Rosary with a difference

Hail Joseph, passed over among men,

Generations shall rise and say: ‘Who’s he?’

But listen – I have a history, a family, a name,

All I wanted, is what most men want,

to take my place, to play my part …

Not such a vanity, I don’t think,

just what any man might ask.

That my children would recite my name in the genealogy,

That when they told the story they would tell my part,

When they gave thanks – it would also be for me!

I hardly knew Mary, she was young and I was older

The way things were we didn’t mix much;

She was shy at the ceremony – shy and veiled.

When they told me, I didn’t shout and scream,

I didn’t want to kick the dust up into a great cloud of shame,

It just wasn’t what I felt,

I felt only that tremendous weariness a man feels

when something good has been lost, a sadness too deep for tears,

a wound too deep for words;

I felt a need to turn within myself, a need to hide,

I longed for the nights and the soft, sweet oblivion of sleep.

It was at night, the angel spoke to me,

All fire and feathers, like an angel should be,

beautiful and wild, and strong

The Angel said: Joseph,

the child is God’s,

don’t be afraid, Joseph,

the child is a Holy Ghost child;

don’t be ashamed,

don’t be afraid!

So when you sing the names, my name should not be there,

Or should it be?

Should I not stand with childless Abraham

and with all these fathers of the nation,

and all of whom were impotent to kindle life sometimes

But unlike them, the power of the promise didn’t flow out

through my veins, or through my sex.

I am the man God set aside,

the man God did not need to light this light,

the man God could not use to fire this fuse.

(I didn’t even get to choose the name)

I lost all this, I lost my place in time and this instead,

this unsought gift which comes not through my loins,

but through my hands and heart and head.

This comes instead –

the power to care and raise this boy-child

up to be a different kind of man …

And to be a different man myself …

Hail Joseph, blessed among men.

Let this same mind be in you which was also in Joseph,

Who did not think equality with God something to be snatched at,

But humbled himself, taking the form of a carer,

He was obedient before the gift of life,

Even life given without the help of a man….

Hail Joseph, Godfather of God.

Heavenly Father, whose Son grew in wisdom and stature in the home of Joseph the carpenter of Nazareth and on the wood of the cross perfected the work of the world's salvation: help us to count the wisdom of the world as foolishness, and to walk with him in simplicity and trust; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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