Sunday, 19 December 2010

O Radix Jesse

Today's antiphon is a reminder of the human identity of Jesus, 'born of David's line'. Jesse was the father of King David. The Jesse Tree, representing Christ's genealogy appears in mediaeval iconography of the incarnation takes his name. There's a fine example of this in the East window of Llandaff Cathedral's Lady Chapel. St Matthew's genealogy of Jesus traces his ancestry from Abraham 'father of many nations' via Jesse to Joseph, husband of Mary. St Luke's genealogy backwards from Joseph via Jesse to Adam. 

Despite their differences in presentation and content, these lists of names seek to anchor Jesus in history the original audiences could identify with, and understand that the One God sent is not a celestial alien but someone like us, sharing fully in the universal experience of being human in order to transform it. And yet, as St John says in the prologue of his Gospel: 'He came to his own and his own knew him not.'

O root of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations; kings fall silent before you whom the peoples acclaim. O come to deliver us and do not delay.

I was sad to lose the opportunity to go to church today. It would have meant driving 20 minutes to the nearest church offering a Eucharist and kids' nativity play in Invermere. When the time came, I was the only one up and about. I was reluctant to take a strange vehicle and make the journey on my own in weather conditions I'm no longer used to. So I said the office and read through the Eucharist quietly, thinking of St John's back home, and countless other congregations around the world with nativity presentations and carol services both great and small, each bringing something local and personal to re-telling the story of God's coming.

After breakfast, Clare and I took Jasmine out sledging. At minus twelve it was too cold to stay out for any length of time and stand around, so we weren't out for long. A Quebecois electrician friend of the family came around after lunch to fix a broken dimmer switch and diagnose the smoke alarm problem. He's off to family re-union tomorrow. His father is back home after spending several years in retreat at the Grand Chartreux monastery near Grenoble following the break up of his marriage. It's good to think that contemplative religious communities are still able to exercise a healing role in today's world.

At the end of the afternoon, Rachel and I took a trip up the mountain to the ski station, to deliver some skis for pre-season servicing, and have a look around. The village is at 2,700 feet, the ski station is at 4,000 feet and the ski lifts ascend to 5,000 feet. The view north up the valley from up there is glorious.  The snow crunches beautifully underfoot and should be generous to ski on. More is on the way. It'll be a challenge to dress well enough to stay warm enough, and not overheat as happens very quickly after a short spell of vigorous activity. It's not a huge ski domain, but it will be certainly give me enough challenges while I get used to ski alpin after a break of several years.
After supper we sat with Jasmine to watch a video of the Disney version of 'Beauty and the Beast'. It was too long and too elaborate a story line to hold the attention of a four year old - not simple enough to free the imagination. I was not at all impressed by the violence embedded in this production, as it played no part in the development of the plot. Was this really aimed at adults, or an expression of what some adults think small children want, or can take? By the time it was over, Jasmine, was unusually hyperactive and took a while to return to a sleep inducing level of calm. That's the first thing I've watched on telly for more than a week, and I found it draining. The calm stillness of the landscape here is all the visual stimulation I need to sustain me as we count down the Christmas.

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