Today is Monday the 17 December, in the third week of Advent.

The nuns of St Cecilia’s Abbey sing Ave Verbum Incarnatum: Hail, Word made flesh by the providence of God. This speaks of a God who does not remain distant and disembodied, in the realm of words and ideas and generalities, but who takes flesh, and gets involved in the physical reality of the world, in particular people and places, in the detail of our daily lives.  Can I recognise that God, present here, now?

Over the last two weeks, listening to readings from the Prophet Isaiah, we have reflected on ourselves and on our world and its needs, and on God’s response to those needs – God’s promise of redemption, freedom and joy.

This week, we will be reflecting on the fulfilment of that promise, or on the beginning of its fulfilment, with the passages from the Gospel that describe the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. So, today’s reading is from the Gospel of Matthew.

This is one of the strangest readings in the Gospel of Matthew to read and to listen to – that long succession of names, obscure and unfamiliar to most of us. But how did you feel as you were listening to it?  Not sure what to make of it?  A bit alienated, even? “Who are all these fathers and what have they got to do with it?” – or did you get some sense of what those words might have been trying to communicate, the sense of heritage, of history unfolding through the generations, of the coming true of the people’s hope that a saviour would come from the house of David, of the promise being fulfilled?

For the people of that time, family background was very important, it meant “this is where you come from”, “this is who you are.”   That wouldn’t necessarily be the case in every part of the world today, but where do you get your sense of identity from, your sense of who you are?

Amongst the forty-two male names – this long line of fathers – four women, three mothers are mentioned:  Rahab, Tamar, Ruth and Mary.   As you hear the reading again, what do you think it is telling you about who Jesus is, and even who you are?

In the final moments of this prayer time, speak to Jesus, this son of Abraham and son of David you’ve been hearing about.  Speak to him, perhaps, about who he is to you, or who you are to him.