Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853 - 1890 ), Roses, 1890, oil on canvas, Gift of Pamela Harriman in memory of W. Averell Harriman

A Shoot Shall Come Out from the Stump of Jesse

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
    the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the spirit of counsel and might,
    the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
     or decide by what his ears hear;…
[Isaiah 11:1-3]

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853 - 1890 ), Roses, 1890, oil on canvas, Gift of Pamela Harriman in memory of W. Averell Harriman

Vincent van Gogh, Roses, 1890, oil on canvas.

I was once at a Christmas party with the supporters of the Alexandria Symphony.  Maestro Kluge was playing Christmas carols on the piano while a group of us sang along.  We were singing “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” when halfway through, I realized I was the only one still singing.  I looked at the Maestro, and he said, “It’s great, keep singing!”

To me, it’s not Christmas without this song.  It has been special to me since I first learned it as a teenager.  It reminds me of the many friends I have had in choruses and church choirs.  When we get together at Christmas reunions, we still sing it in four-part harmony.

The devotional Scripture for today foretells the birth of the Jewish Messiah.  It has been dated to the seventh century before the birth of Jesus. It clearly foretells that this Messiah will come forth from the line of David (Jesse’s son). For this reason, Christians have always traced the lineage of Jesus through the House of David to prove that He is the long-expected savior come to set his people free. Both Matthew and Luke include a genealogy at the beginning of their gospels to make this point.

Until modern times, most people couldn’t read, but they could sing. That is why hymns of all types were so important in the Church; they told the story of Christ in a form that was easy for people to understand and to memorize. “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” isn’t just a beautiful carol; it was a way for Christians to recall Isaiah’s prophecy and its meaning:

 Listen:


Lo, how a rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
As those of old have sung;

It came a flow’ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half-spent was the night.

Isaiah ‘twas foretold it
The rose I have in mind.
With Mary we behold it
The Virgin Mother kind;

To show God’s love aright,
She bore to men a Savior
When half-spent was the night.

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