Sunday After Nativity – The Righteous Kinsmen of the Lord
On this Sunday after the feast of the Nativity, the Holy Church commemorates the righteous kinsmen of the Lord –Joseph the Betrothed, David the King, and James the brother of the Lord. This is surely one of the great mysteries and miracles of the Nativity of Christ – that the Creator of all that is, should stoop to entwine Himself into the lives of His creatures so intimately, that He would make them His family.
Each of these great men that we commemorate today - Joseph the Betrothed, David the King, and James the brother of the Lord – demonstrate virtues which are underscored by the Apostle Paul as the three greatest virtues: faith, hope, and love.
Joseph the Betrothed was of the lineage of King David and, as we know, was the protector and guardian of the Holy Virgin Mary and our Lord Jesus Christ. Joseph was an elderly man and a relative of the young Virgin Mary who had dedicated herself to God – being raised within the temple. Joseph was a widower with children from an earlier marriage which included James, Jude, Simon, and others. These were the ‘brothers and sisters of the Lord’ whom we hear about.
Today’s Gospel reading illustrates for us the attentiveness and obedience and great faith of our holy father Joseph. Joseph was visited by the angel of the Lord who reassured him that Mary, though pregnant, was pure and remain a virgin. He was warned by an angel to take the Young Child and His mother, and flee into Egypt, staying there until he heard word that it was safe to return. Joseph demonstrates a pure-hearted faith in God -immediately obeying and escorting the Virgin Mary and our Lord on their journey into that foreign land. Joseph obeyed God and remained in exile until an angel of the Lord appeared calling him back. He followed the promptings of God and brought our Lord to the city of Nazareth where He lived and grew until the time of His ministry.
Joseph’s humility and faith are a tremendous lesson for us. Against any temptations which would be perfectly natural… to suspect the pregnancy of Mary, to question the practicality of fleeing to a foreign land… in all these things, Joseph demonstrates a complete and whole-hearted faith in God. May he stand as an example to each one of us!
Next we have the example of David the King - that remarkable ancestor of the Lord who we know from the Old Testament and whose voice we hear echoing in all of our prayers and church services as we read from his beautiful Psalms. David was the eighth and youngest son of Jesse. God had ordered the Prophet Samuel to go to Bethlehem to visit Jesse and anoint one of his sons as the new king. Though David was the youngest and least likely, Samuel was told by God that it was David who should be anointed. Even though the older brothers were taller, stronger, and more mature, we read the following: “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)
David, from his humble beginnings and from the goodness of his heart, arises to stand as a pivotal point in the ancestry of our Lord Jesus Christ. He represents the hope of the people of Israel… that from the seed of David, the long-awaited Messiah would eventually come to free the people of God.
And finally, James the brother of the Lord, stands before us a testimony of love. James became the first bishop of Jerusalem and was an important figure in the life of the early church. We see many references in the writings of Apostle Paul regarding how disputes were brought before the council of Apostles and Fathers of the Church and how James, as bishop, mediated and pronounced judgment – showing the good order and hierarchy of the church even in these earliest of times.
James, who exhibited great humility and who did not seek a place of honor, is given the place of honor as bishop of Jerusalem. Again, we see the workings and the wisdom of the Lord… in our weakness we are made strong. It is only the ground that is broken that can take the seed of faith and bring forth fruit.
Let us reflect upon these wondrous kinsmen of the Lord: Joseph the Betrothed, who demonstrated such great faith and took upon himself the guardianship of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child; David the King, who was the least of his brethren and was made first, who became a father of the hope of a nation and who gives us the voice of prayer and repentance in his beautiful psalms; and James the Brother of the Lord, a humble Apostle and follower of his Divine Cousin, who in his deep humility and love accepted the will of God and took on the yoke of leadership in the Church as bishop of Jerusalem.
Faith, hope, and love… these three, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, are the keys to how we must respond in such trying times as these.
I don’t know how it was for you, but I have to say this was an extraordinary Nativity for me. With all of the sickness going around, our numbers were diminished; the news is telling us that this month will likely be the peak in the number of infections. Fr Andrew and I were both sick following our feast day… things were touch and go as to whether we would even have services for the Nativity.
And what happened?... Though the circumstances were humble and there was so much trouble all around - the service was so beautiful. The choir sang like angels and there was an unmistakable spirit of light which shone forth and could not be overtaken by the darkness. As the choir sang of ‘a little babe’ it became so clear to me that the ragings of this world and of the evil one are rendered impotent in the presence of the One Who lies in a manger in swaddling clothes. What an extraordinary thing! What a source of faith, hope, and love!
God is with us dear brothers and sisters in Christ! May that humble and quiet Light of the Nativity be your shining star – giving you faith, hope, and love which cannot be overtaken by any temptation of this world. Christ is born, let us glorify Him!