Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Advent 2012 : Day 18
O Radix Jesse
When God came into the world,
it was as one entrusted not to kings
or priests or generals
but to a carpenter:
to one who knew not how to rule,
or broker rites, or break resistance,
but one who knew the life of
which one to choose,
to trust, for every purpose.
One whose trained eye could tell
what lay beneath outward appearance,
whose skill could fashion habitable space
for saint and sinner, Jew and Gentile.
From the beginning
God had known
this was the call
to which he must apprentice.
The very act of human living involves the repeated discipline of receiving life and letting-go of death, as we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. In God’s breath-taking vision, trees take in carbon dioxide and give out oxygen: an exchange that calls on us to shepherd trees well, and, as long as the mutual interdependence of all creation is honoured, guarantees that we are not consumed.
One of the ancient images of Jesus is the Root of Jesse. As a tree cut back will grow again if its roots remain, so Jesus is the re-growth of David’s family line (Jesse was David’s father; David, king of Israel; and David’s line cut off at the Exile – defeat and a series of exiles and later returns – under the Babylonian empire).
But there is more to the image of Jesus as tree than that: echoes of the Tree of Life, and of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (knowing right from wrong); echoes of the ark in which survival was secured in the days of a Great Flooding of the Cradle of Humanity...and of the ark of the Covenant, symbol and sign of God’s presence with his people; echoes also of the crucifixion, and of the exchange where God takes on himself the sin (the death that exists when we live in disharmony) of humanity, in so doing destroying sin, and extends his own righteousness (the life that exists when we live in harmony) to us.
O Radix Jesse
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign to the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.