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;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
I was once at a Christmas party with the supporters of the Alexandria Symphony. Then-Maestro Kim Allen Kluge was playing Christmas carols on the piano while a group of us sang along. We were singing “Lo, How a Rose E’re 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 Messiah. It has been dated to the seventeenth 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 could not read, but they could sing. This 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” is not just a beautiful carol, it was a way for Christians to recall Isaiah’s prophesy and its meaning.
Lo, how a rose e’re blooming
From tender stem hath sprung
Of Jesse’s lineage coming
As those of old have sung.
It came a floweret 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 for us a savior
When half-spent was the night.
This week’s passage is my favorite from the Book of Isaiah. I always find a way to include it in Advent Lessons & Carols services, and this year is no exception. While there are many carols and anthems that reflect on this text, our terrific associate for children’s music, Molly Roden, found a perfect fit in our own library. Listen above to a recording of our children’s choirs singing a portion of “A Shoot Shall Come Forth Out of Jesse” by Richard Horn. Horn chooses to set several verses from Isaiah 11 and 32 in this anthem:
A shoot shall come forth out of Jesse,
And a bud shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of life shall be with him,
The spirit of wisdom and truth.
From out of the wells of salvation
Will he draw us the water of life;
His waist shall be girdled with justice,
The heart of his heart shall be Love.
He’ll come from the end of his heaven,
And the earth shall be torn from its place;
Our lives shall be filled with his radiance
As floodwaters cover the sea.
Then the lamb shall lie down with the leopard,
And the lion eat straw with the ox,
For the hand of a Child shall lead them
To the peaceable kingdom of God.
It is the words of the refrain that are most meaningful to me. May the voices of the children of Westminster remind us all of the promise foretold by the prophet Isaiah as our prayers for peace and concord ascend to the throne of heaven.
Second Sunday of Advent – The Candle of Peace
What is peace? Where can we find peace for ourselves, our family, our community, our world? How do we help others find peace? In this season of Advent, take the time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and find peace within yourself. Spread that peace to others. Use the word peace at your gatherings, dinners and prayers.
The children of Westminster were asked to talk about the word peace. This is their response:
Dear Lord, thank you for giving us peace. May we find it within ourselves and help give it to others.
Each Christmas season, we look through Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus and remark at the accomplished and God-fearing ancestors of Him. One of those is Ruth, known not only as David’s grandmother, but also as one who gleaned Boaz’s fields to provide her and her mother-in-law Naomi enough to eat. Like Ruth, we at Westminster glean—gather produce left after a harvest—twice each year to provide food for those who need it.
In the summer, we glean corn through Healthy Harvest Food Bank, an organization which organizes gleaners to harvest fresh produce that has been left behind after farms in the Northern Neck of Virginia have finished their harvest. The produce is then taken to food banks within the Northern Neck region of Virginia, so that people can have fruits and vegetables when they otherwise may not be able to afford it. In the fall, Westminster gleans apples through the Society of St. Andrew. They coordinate produce gleaning across Virginia and, like Healthy Harvest, donate it to local food pantries. This year, we gleaned truckloads of apples and corn through the two organizations.
Though it is a little cold for us to be gleaning this Advent season, the National Missions team hopes you will keep our summer and fall opportunities in mind as you plan out your 2020 calendars. In addition to our annual gleaning trips, Westminster also contributes financially to the two organizations.
If you are interested further in Healthy Harvest Food Bank or the Society of St. Andrew, explore hhfb.org or endhunger.org/virginia. Please also pray this week for those who farm and those who glean food that will feed the Ruths and Naomis of the world.
Cover Art: Two Trees, first half 1800s. Johann Jacob Dorner (German, 1775-1852). The Cleveland Museum of Art.