In Genesis 3:15, God promises Adam and Eve that he would send a man, a seed of the woman, who would deliver them from their sin. The curse of labor in delivery for the woman, hard work in the fields for the man, and animosity and strife with Satan and each other, as well as death, would be their state until the deliverer comes. Thousands of years go by, and the history of mankind is filled with these struggles; murder, strife, and war mark the entire history of mankind. The New Testament opens with the identification of Jesus as the promised deliverer. Matthew goes to great lengths to connect Jesus with the history of the human race by making the connection of Jesus with the promised seed. The first verse of the New Testament might be the title of the entire book and even the entire New Testament. It says, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The Handbook for Translators tells us, “The word Jesus is a Greek equivalent of a well-known Hebrew name. It is constructed from two Hebrew words which mean ‘Lord’ and ‘save,’ and it is probably best taken in its root meaning: ‘O Lord, save.’ In 1:21, the angel indicates to Mary the true and full significance of the name Jesus—he will save his people from their sins.”[1] This connects Jesus not only with Abraham and David but also with the promise in Genesis 3:15.

Luther’s German translation says, “This is the book of the story of Jesus Christ.” He preferred this translation because the Gospel includes not only Jesus’ connection with the past but also includes all of the words and deeds of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel. I don’t like the word “story.” It might imply that this is something other than fact. I’d rather translate it as “This is the book of the history of Jesus Christ.” The history of Jesus makes him an heir to the throne of Israel. Boice says, “Matthew’s genealogy proves that Jesus had descended from King David and was, therefore, qualified to be the Jews’ Messiah (‘Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me,’ 2 Sam. 7:16). And his reference to Abraham is a first and early suggestion that Jesus is also the one through whom the blessings of God would be given, not only to Jews but to the Gentile nations as well (‘All peoples on earth will be blessed through you,’ Gen. 12:3).”[2]

Exell gives four reasons why he believes this genealogy is significant, “The first record is the book of the generation of Jesus Christ. What does this signify? 1. A man’s beginnings, a man’s ancestors, have something to do with both his character and his life. 2. Christ was the sacred heir of all the ancient world. 3. The genealogy reminds us how all the past was preparing for Jesus. 4. But more than all, the generations of Jesus Christ show us the birth of the new world, the new time, and the new institutions, which are to end in the perfect glory of the Father and the perfect blessedness of the race.”[3] Christmas is a celebration of the coming of the Messiah, Not Santa Claus. Remember, the reason for the season is to celebrate the birth of the one who would save the world. This brings such a spirit of hope to Christians that celebrating this event is always joyous. Joy to the world!

[1] Newman, Barclay Moon, and Philip C. Stine. 1992. A Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies.

[2] Boice, James Montgomery. 2001. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] Exell, Joseph S. 1952. The Biblical Illustrator: Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.