December 17: Christ’s Genealogy

Published December 17, 2015 by Unprodigal Daughter


Today’s Gospel seems like a confusing mess to the 21st century Christian. Why would the people who made our lectionary put such a confusing passage as our Gospel reading for Advent time? Do we REALLY need to know all of Jesus’s relatives? How can we learn about Christ when the Gospel writers wrote in a confusing message of their own time? Are these details relevant to our faith life? The answer is…although may be confusing…this passage CAN apply to us.

As Catholics, we read the Scriptures in a unique way compared to some of our other brothers and sisters in Christ. We do not simply take things at face value, or interpret Scriptures in a blanket literal way. We do not try to impose our 21st century ways into the readings. We use what is called the historical-critical method, meaning we put passages into their proper historical context. What mattered to the original readers of the Gospel will make sense of what seems meaningless to us today, and as a result, will strengthen our faith. Understanding intention assists in understanding the text as a whole.

For the first century Jew, or a first century Christian of Jewish heritage, Matthew’s long genealogical list would have been very informative. The Old Testament tells us repeatedly that the Messiah would come from the house of David. Matthew’s list tells us that Jesus’s heritage was indeed from David’s lineage. This would ensure to ancient Jews that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah. This would also assist the ancient Jews in their faith, because Jesus was the promise fulfilled. Jesus was evidence that God keeps his end of the deal. 

Matthew’s long genealogy would also ensure to Jewish Christians that Christianity was not an entirely new thing. If Christianity was something independent entirely, then Jesus would not be able to trace his Jewish roots back hundreds of years. Again, Christ’s coming was the fulfillment of the Old Testament, and genealogies were one of many ways the early Christians proved it.

For those of us reading the Gospel today, understanding the past makes us appreciate  the passage better. When we make sense of why Matthew made the genealogical list, we understand the message: God is with us. God keeps promises. Jesus is our fulfilled promise, and one way that we know that is by looking at his family history. 

Opening Prayer

Jesus, our Lord, save us from our sins. 
Come, protect us from all dangers and lead us to salvation.

Come! Wisdom of our God Most High, 
guiding creation with power and love: 
teach us to walk in the paths of knowledge!

Come! Leader of ancient Israel, 
giver of the Law of Moses on Sinai: 
rescue us with Your mighty power!

Come! Flower of Jesse’s stem, 
sign of God’s love for all His people: 
save us without delay!

Come! Key of David, 
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: 
free the prisoners of darkness!

Come, Emmanuel, God’s presence among us, our King, our Judge: 
save us, Lord our God!

Come, King of all nations, 
source of Your Church’s unity and faith: 
save all mankind, Your own creation!

Come, Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, Sun of Justice: 
shine on those lost in the darkness of death!

Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay; 
give new courage to Your people who trust in Your love. 
By Your coming, raise us to the joy of Your Kingdom, 
where you live and reign with the Father 
and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. 


(taken from

Daily Readings

Reading 1: GN 49:2, 8-10

Jacob called his sons and said to them:
“Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob,
listen to Israel, your father.

“You, Judah, shall your brothers praise
–your hand on the neck of your enemies;
the sons of your father shall bow down to you.
Judah, like a lion’s whelp,
you have grown up on prey, my son.
He crouches like a lion recumbent,
the king of beasts–who would dare rouse him?
The scepter shall never depart from Judah,
or the mace from between his legs,
While tribute is brought to him,
and he receives the people’s homage.”

Responsorial Psalm: PS 72:1-2, 3-4AB, 7-8, 17

R. (see 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

The mountains shall yield peace for the people,
and the hills justice.
He shall defend the afflicted among the people,
save the children of the poor.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.


Gospel: MT 1:1-17

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.

(taken from the USCCB website)


For more on the crazy genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew, enjoy Bishop Barron’s reflection. He emphasizes some of the women in Jesus’s ancestry.

Additional Activities

For Christmas activities to do with your family that are more religious than secular, check out some of these. Here are some additional last-minute Advent ideas. And finally, since Christmas does not end on December 25th, here are some January activities for Catholics.

Closing Prayer

“May my heart be blameless toward your decrees, that I may not be put to shame” (Psalm 119:80). 

Lord, prepare our hearts to be blameless in our Christian walk. Help others to see that we follow You in all of the circumstances of life as we wait for the coming of the Christ Child.

(taken from

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