- January 1: Genesis 1-3; Matthew 1
This is the very beginning of the Bible, and it starts with the creation of the world. I love Genesis – especially the beginning. It is deeply true, in the best sense of the word, even when it is not literally true. Here is what is most important about the creation story, as I see it. First, God is the creator of everything. The universe has a beginning, and it was created by God’s word of command. God says, “Let there be…” and something comes into being. Second, when God creates something, God sees that it is good. When God finishes creating the universe, God sees that it is ‘very good.’ Third, God makes humankind, both male and female, equally in God’s own image. Fourth, when God blesses humanity and says, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth,” God is not telling humanity to trash the earth, but to be stewards, caretakers, of the earth and its creatures (in the beginning, before sin, God even told all creatures to be vegetarians! – see 1:29-30). Fifth, after the act of creation, God rested on the seventh day and made it holy. Are you able to find rest, Sabbath time, in your life?
What is not so important about the creation story is what people often argue about: how long were God’s days of creation? Some people think it was six 24 hour earth days; some people think God’s days of creation could have been millions or billions of earth years (God’s time being different than our own). As long as we agree that God created everything, then it should not matter how long God took to do it, or what process God used to create the universe and its inhabitants.
Isn’t it interesting that in Hebrew ‘Adam’ means ‘human,’ and ‘Eve’ means ‘life-bearer’! Adam and Eve, as our first parents, stand for all of us. The woman has good intentions when she takes the fruit (see 3:6), and in contrast to the man she has to be persuaded with reason to take the fruit, but she disobeyed God’s command. When the woman and man eat of the fruit, their eyes are opened, and they know shame for the first time. Because of their disobedience, their close relationship with God is harmed, and they must leave the garden to begin a life of struggle and labor. And yet God provides clothing for them before sending them out into the world. This is an image of humanity come of age, awakening to consciousness and conscience, and leaving innocence behind to begin the epic human quest.
Matthew is the first book of the New Testament. Matthew starts his Gospel with a genealogy of Jesus. As you read through it, notice the women from the Old Testament that Matthew includes: Tamar, who fooled her father-in-law into bearing a child with him; Rahab the prostitute of Jericho; Ruth the Moabite woman, who remains faithful to her beloved mother-in-law Naomi; and the wife of Uriah – Bathsheba, the woman with whom David committed adultery. Even though they had questionable histories (from a certain ‘respectable’ perspective) or were foreigners – non-Jewish outsiders, these women, like Mary, were important people in God’s plans for Israel and the world. It may be that Matthew had the stories about Jesus’ ‘questionable’ parentage in mind when he wrote this, as if to say, no matter how Jesus was conceived, God has blessed and will bless the world through Mary and through him, just as through the people of God that came before them.