Sermon: Sunday before the Nativity (Sunday of the Holy Fathers) & Serbian "Father's Day"

© 2009 by Fr. Milan Medakovic. Reprinted with permission.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today on the Sunday before the Nativity of Christ, we celebrate two things. The first is the Sunday of the Holy Fathers. The second is the last of our pre-Nativity Serbian celebrations, Father’s Day.

Father’s day is celebrated in the same manner as Children’s Day and Mother’s Day. The father of the family is tied or bound and not released until he gives his presents. With his gifts, the last exchanging of gifts occurs between family members. No gifts are exchanged on the feast of the Nativity. Thus, the family is focused on receiving the greatest gift of all: our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son and Word of God, through His Nativity.

Father’s Day has the same two aspects of binding or tying and remembrance. As we should recall, the tying or binding commemorates the bonds of family. What is to be remembered are all of our holy fathers and their fatherly love. First, we remember all of the Holy Fathers of the Church and their love for their spiritual children. Secondly, we remember all of our Serbian fathers that gave their lives for the “Holy Cross and Golden Freedom.” Finally, we remember that a child gets its concept of God from their father. It is easy for the child to make this connection. When we teach them to cross themselves, they learn "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." We also teach them their first prayer, "Our Father." Thus, the father that lives a good, moral and charitable life provides his children with a proper image of God as Father.

In today’s Gospel, we hear the genealogy of the Christ; hence it is called the Sunday of the Holy Fathers. We hear the names of all of the fathers that make up Christ’s genealogy. In addition to the names of these fathers, we hear the names of several women because of their importance in salvation history.

The Gospel begins with: "This is the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David." We should note that Jesus is a Hebrew word that means savior. Christ is another Hebrew word, meaning anointed ones. The anointed ones are the priests and kings that were anointed by holy oil being poured upon their heads. The next question should be why the son of David and not Abraham or Adam? The son of David is used because he was the first of the kings to please God. By pleasing God, David received a promise from God that the Christ would arise from his seed. Thus, Saint Matthew from the start is communicating that this is the genealogy of the Savior, the Priest-King, the promised Christ from King David. In other words, the genealogy of the One we have been awaiting.

The genealogy begins with Abraham and not Adam. Why? It begins this way because Abraham is the father of the Hebrew nation. Also, it is because Abraham was the first to receive the promise that through his seed all nations would be blessed.

We move through the genealogy to Judah, who begets twin sons by Tamar. Tamar was the wife of Judah’s son, Er. When Er died childless, Tamar was then married to Oman, another son of Judah. Oman died because of his wickedness, leaving Tamar childless. She had the desire to have a child of the seed of Abraham. This resulted in her taking off the garments of a widow and dressing as a harlot. She went in and joined herself with her father in law. This resulted in the birth of the twin boys, Pharez and Zarah.

The genealogy further progresses to the birth of Boaz, by Rahab and Salma. Rahab is the prostitute that hid the spies of Joshua, the son of Nun, during the Israelite attack on Jericho.

Next, the genealogy turns to the birth of Obed by Ruth and Boaz. The story of Ruth is probably one of the most touching in all of the Old Testament. Ruth is not a Jew. She was married to a Jewish man that died. When her mother in law wants to release her back to her people, she says: “Your God shall be my God, and your people shall be my people.” She stays with her mother in law and supports her, gleaning grain in the fields. It is here that she meets Boaz, who takes her and her mother in law in to his household through marriage.

We now come to David’s great sin of adultery and murder in the genealogy. David sees Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, bathing and desires her. He commits adultery with her. In order to hide his sin, he moves further in sin by having Uriah killed in battle. David confesses his sins and repents greatly. After the death of David’s and Bathsheba’s first son, their second son, the great wise king Solomon, is born of them.

The genealogy finally progresses to Joseph and Mary, the Mother of God. It may seem odd to us that this is Joseph’s genealogy and not Mary’s. Should it not be her genealogy? Isn't She a virgin? Isn't the child Jesus conceived by the Holy Spirit and not Joseph? Well, in fact, this is her genealogy as well. This was because under the Law, a wife was only taken from the same tribe. Thus, being of the same tribe, they have the same genealogy.

We then hear in the Gospel that there are fourteen generations between Abraham and David, a further fourteen generations between David and deportation to Babylon, and fourteen generations between the deportation to Babylon and Christ. This division into three periods and the number fourteen are important to us. First let us look at the three divisions or periods mentioned in the Gospel. These three periods show the three ways that Israel was ruled: by Judges, Kings and Priests. This is to show us that Jesus is our Judge, King and High Priest.

The number fourteen is to bring our attention to the fulfillment of the promise to David that the Christ would come from Him. In Hebrew, the letters are used as numbers in a similar manner as letters in Church Slavonic are used as numbers. The letters of the name of David in Hebrew add up to fourteen.

So, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in this genealogy we see Jesus as Savior, High Priest, King, the promised Christ from King David. We also see that Jesus Christ’s humanity is the same as ours. It is made up of holy people, great sinners, those that repented, and those that are from outside of His race or nationality and religion. Thus, Christ holds much in common with all of us.