O Root of Jesse, rising as a sign for all the peoples, before you earthly rulers will keep silent, and nations give you honor: Come quickly to deliver us. Come, Lord Jesus.
I have written about this before, here. The Christmas of my freshman year in college (what will that be like for Petra?), I almost didn't come home for Christmas.
My family had a long-standing tradition of ignoring Christmas at home (the apartment above the store) and throwing ourselves-- all of ourselves-- into Christmas in the business. My brother and I wrapped bottles, we decorated windows. But upstairs-- it wasn't Christmas, there were no carols played on record players, there was no tree after the year I was 7. There were some good reasons for this: retail, especially small-business-family-owned-and-operated retail, is exhausting at this time of year. I look at Beloved, working 63 hours a week right now. But also, my mother hated Christmas. I don't know whether it was because of traumatic childhood memories of deprivation, or some other circumstance she never shared with me. But she hated it. The music, the decor, the tree.
So beginning the Christmas I was 8, we always went to Florida. My mom would take my brother and me as soon as school was out, and my dad would join us on Christmas day. And-- please understand-- I loved it. I am a swimmer, always have been, and my joy and delight was to be in the pool or the ocean all day, every day. I had a tradition of diving into the pool at midnight on New Year's.... that was my real celebration. I was a very fortunate little girl. I wanted for nothing.
Except, I wanted Christmas. So, when one of my roommates invited me to her home for the holidays, a place her parents always decked out in grand Christmas fashion, I leapt at the idea. And I told my mother. And after a brief pause, she said, "We will have a tree this year."
So I went home. And when I got there, there was a naked tree in the living room, and a box of decorations and some lights. And I set about decorating the tree all alone, while listening to a Christmas record I'd bought at the Harvard C00p; "Christmas in Cambridge" with the Harvard/ Radcliffe Glee Club. And I was happy.
I've thought about this memory a lot this year, one reason being, I've been very late getting my tree (it finally made it into the house last night), and I have been hesitant to get it, partially, because of what's been going on with Petra. I was afraid the idea of the tree would be unwelcome to her-- well, not unwelcome, exactly, but more work, more stress. I had to decide I was willing to decorate the tree alone, and that would be just fine. I decided it would be.
The anthem here, Virga Jesse by Anton Bruckner, was on that Christmas record, the first I'd ever owned-- the first ever to make its way into my childhood home. Here is the translation of the lyrics:
a Virgin brings forth God and man:
God restores peace,
reconciling in Himself the lowest with the highest.
This O antiphon has a way, always, of filling me with a kind of awe... here is the mystery, that the roots planted there, blossom here in the most thrilling and unexpected and glorious way. As I drove home last night with the tree nestled in the car (the trunk was right next to me, and the smell of the pine was glorious), I gave thanks for the roots that make my delight in this season so deep and sweet.