The word genesis has strong overtones for us as people of faith. It takes us back to the beginning – when the Word of God spoke and the Spirit hovered over the waters and something was created out of nothing – a world, teeming with life and beauty, at the heart of which was ‘man and woman’ made in God’s image.
The connotation of this wondrous mystery of creation and life is captured in the word genealogy. For anyone who has witnessed a birth or seen or held a new born baby will have shared that sense of wonder of the creation of a new life: tiny hands closing around an adult’s finger, wispy hair like strands of silk, utter dependency, living and breathing; a baby replete with the aroma of complete newness. The rhythm of one generation to the next heard in the tiny cries of new born life. Genealogy is the genesis of one generation to the next, created and blessed by God.
But now Matthew asserts there is something else arising in the midst of this rhythm of the generations: the genesis, the birth, of Jesus which took place in this way. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to announce the news that his betrothed Mary was with child, even though they had not had marital relations. This is something different again, something new: a new beginning, another genesis! The event of the virgin birth stands outside our common understanding of human reproductive processes and the generation of life from parents to child.
What occurs in Mary’s empty womb is a distinctively new creative act of God, through which God is coming to be with us, to live with us and to save us. This new reality of God’s relationship with the creation is reflected in the naming of this unborn child as ‘Jesus’ and ‘Emmanuel’.