It’s a mystery to me how a rose bush can die back in the winter and look like it will never ever live again. Then, quietly, a little shoot springs from the dead wood. Then a stalk forms and sends out a perfectly shaped bloom. It is a gift and a mystery and a small sign of Advent.
I could never explain the words to this haunting carol, but the powerful poetic image of a flower, particularly a beautiful rose, sprouting in the winter captures the imagination. And who is Jesse anyway? Jesse was the much less famous father of King David. Isaiah said that a tender shoot would rise up. But it would take 600 years of the royal authority lying dormant, then out of the dead stump comes new life, the tender stem in the form of Jesus, the rose.


Lo, how a rose e’er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow’ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.

The Rose which I am singing,
Whereof Isaiah said,
Is from its sweet root springing
In Mary, purest Maid;
Through God’s great love and might
The Blessed Babe she bare us
In a cold, cold winter’s night.

The floweret, so small
That smells so sweet to us
With its clear light
Dispels the darkness.
True man and true God!
He helps us from all trouble,
Saves us from sin and death.

Read that third verse again. Jesus, the clear light dispels the darkness of 600 years. And then a true man and true God comes who helps us from all trouble and saves us from sin and death. Jesus is the rose.

Bright Christmas Rose, bloom in my heart with sweet fragrance for all. Amen