The Great O Antiphon for December 19th is O Root of Jesse,

“O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among 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.”

This antiphon is the basis for the verse in “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” which reads,

“O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave.”

Though Jeremiah and Zechariah make reference to the Branch, the longer passage in which we find a description of the Branch is Isaiah 11:1-10,

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
9 They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
10 In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.” (ESV)

The character of the King and his kingdom, is marked by a remarkable power and peace. But imbedded in the passage is a surprising hope: the Branch springs from a stump. In this sonnet I begin with that image. We love growing things. We understand seeds and planting and nurturing, but what of death? What healthy tree ever grew from a stump, and what glory was ever wrested from a cross?

If it is helpful, you may listen as I read the sonnet via the player below.

There is nothing so hopeless as a tree’s
Stump whose root has been lopped of green
Cut down, left lifeless, without its leaves
To lie in lament, to sorrow only cling.
O Root of Jesse, the stump from which
Buds our righteousness, joy, and peace
Who makes the scorned, the cut off rich,
Who were despised, hated, counted least.
O how may hope from this lifeless wood,
This cursed, crossed tree raised above,
Hanging with death, certainly no good
Could spring in new life, sing wondrous love.
Come quickly Root of Jesse, deliver and bring
The peace which the nations long and sing.

artwork: The Jesse Tree in the Lambeth Psalter, unknown English miniaturist, c.1140s

This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks!

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