Matthew 1 – the genealogy of Jesus is not immediately the most stimulating or inspirational of passages to read. But in all the names is a wonderful message – one I’m deeply looking forward to preaching on Christmas Eve at SLE Church.

But could you put the genealogy to music? Poor Bishop Hooper has – and not just in a way that’s catchy to remember (like a Colin Buchanan scripture memory song) but in a way that captures the tone and sense of the passage. The husband and wife duo of Jesse and Leah Roberts have crafted a stunning song – a beautiful piece of art to the glory of God.

The song begins in soft ethereal ambience. In the same way that a light slowly pierces the dark we are introduced to Abraham’s linage. Between Abraham to Judah the notes are long, wistful. Musically we’re introduced to the beginning of the story that seems to be going somewhere significant. But for now, as we meet Judah and his family line, there is a curiosity building steadily from 0:53 as we move from Judah to King David.

However, the mood and tone shift at 1:40 as David’s fathering of Solomon is drawn out tragically by a steady and slow cadence and the switch to a minor key  – we are reminded that Solomon was born by ‘Uriah’s own wife’. Bathsheba isn’t silenced here, but it’s a reminder of the profoundly disappointing adultery committed by David (which then had a profoundly negative impact on his Kingship and family from there). The song dwells on this musically between 1:52 and 2:10 – solemn and dark tones are dwelt upon. It is a low point in the song, echoing the descent of the nation.

But then the music shifts from 2:10 – it begins to lift. The Kings are listed with a combined sense of wandering and hope. Leah’s voice picks up energy and with steady tones and searching sweeping notes brings us on this searching journey with her. There seems to be a note of hope all of a sudden. As in the Biblical story, things seemed to be going downhill before our eyes, yet at the same time the prophetic message also pointed to great hopes to come.

At 3:08 the first rhythmic beats of hope begin. The music starts to lift and lift and lift – while Leah’s voice soars and still seems to wander in search of some elusive footing – from Manesseh all the way to Jacob there is a dissonance between the lifting music and the searching voice. What is happening? What is going on? What is God doing?

And then at 4:12 Leah’s voice finds a surprising and grace-filled strength – footing is found. With hope now realised and overflowing she sings:

Jacob was the father of Joseph
Joseph took a virgin for his wife
And Mary was the one who gave birth to the Son of God

And then her voice lifts with the music. Hope collides with joy in elated dance, a crash of the cymbals at 4:39, to which she can’t help but repeat again and again:

And his name is Jesus
And his name is Jesus
And his name is Jesus
Who is called the Christ!


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