The Jesse tree story for today is Noah, the flood, and the covenant that followed. The ubiquity of flood stories in widely separated mythologies around the world could mean a dimly remembered folk memory of a pre-‘out-of-africa’ cataclysm – or it could just mean that people tend to live around bodies of water, and bodies of water tend to do unpredictable things.
It’s always part of our Jesse tree sequence because of a couple of the underlying messages. The point of the Jesse tree sequence is that Christmas is a crucial pivot event in the plan to put humankind back on track after a false start. And Noah’s story has several elements that contribute. First, the flood was the consequence of sin (this is a common theme, though in the Babylonian version, overpopulation was the issue; in some mythologies, the flood is a punishment for presumption; in others, it is a consequence of a divine war), so it links the story into the broader story of the false start. Second, salvation from the flood comes from following God’s lead despite being mocked by society. Third, even the righteous lose their way sometimes (Noah gets drunk and exposes himself sexually to his children). Fourth, God gives us a rule to live by – don’t kill other humans. Fifth, the story gives us the first use of the word covenant. And there may be other messages I’m missing on this brief run through. (Any thoughts on what those might be?)
So, in essence, the flood story tells us that there are rules to live by, that nasty things will happen if we don’t follow them, and that even when nasty things happen, there is still hope for a better future.