Lo, How a Rose
Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung,
Under the cold snow, life is hiding. Even though the black ice of winter seals in the colors of spring, we almost forget the roots that bear such beauty when the sun shines. Even in the deep, dark, death of the night, there is more than we can see right below our very own feet. A stem, a stump, stands steadfast frosted over. A root, a barren bush, is anchored in the center of the frozen soil. And here, hope has been planted.
The cold, hard world has frozen over the words of God. Good, beauty, and peace for His people lay dormant, hidden under the curses for sin, trapped beneath shame. The dead-looking root, stuck in the snow, reminds us of a time when the roses once flourished. A reality we cannot always see in the present darkness. All we look at is a broken stump, slashed to pieces by the just and righteous hand of God. Beauty and fragrance and petals absent from the sting of the wicked wind. And yet here, a Rose will live.
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
A prophet of God, Isaiah spoke about a man who would come 700 years later. Patiently waiting beneath the freezing tundra, a son of Jesse was coming. “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 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.” (Is. 11:1-2)
Men of old, men of wisdom, men who saw visions of the flower to come, sang about a Savior that would bloom in our midst. Adam and Eve, back in the Garden of Eden, sang about a Savior that would crush the head of the serpent who introduced doubt into God’s creation. Isaiah sang that the Savior would come in the flesh from the family of Jesse, who would be father to King David. These prophetic songs from faithful men of old continue to remind us life was brimming beneath the surface.
It came, a flow’ret bright, amid the cold of winter, when half spent was the night.
And finally, a Rose. Breaking forth in the midst of winter, when least expected. Everything we heard from the stories and the prophets would have us expect this incredible Rose. We were waiting for the spring, when our darkness had been cleared away. We were waiting for an overwhelming morning, when everything was bright and clear and warm again. But we never expected Him to come in the middle of the night. We didn’t look for the fragrant shoot when half spent was the night. Yet, our Rose still flowered.
“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:9-11). Darkness remains. The Rose blooms. Sin and shame rule. The Rose blooms. No one knows He is here. The Rose blooms. Jesus Christ presses forth a bud of righteousness in the middle of our night.
Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Is. 7:14). Christmas was coming, probably in the least expected way. The birth of a Savior was coming whether anyone could recognize it or not. Not even King Herod knew where to find this newborn royal Rose. The star-gazing Magi studied Isaiah’s words, recorded in the Old Testament, so they might behold the blooming flower. Discovering a virgin in the insignificant town of Bethlehem who ushered in the arrival of the infant king, they unknowingly, even unintentionally dug up the latent promises of God’s people.
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
The unbelievable baby Rose sprouted life where there should be none: in the middle of impossible circumstances, born of a young virgin in the family line of King David, from the root of Jesse. Here is where beauty visibly revealed its first precious petal. “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us)” (Matt. 1:20-23). Finally, we would see the Rose that was spoken by the prophets. Finally, we could look upon the Savior that was promised from the beginning of Creation.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior, when half spent was the night.
Until now, manifestations of mercy in the Old Testament were temporary. Until now, sacrifices for sin were continually required by God. But the blossomed flower from the stump of Jesse made visible the solution that had been provided. The tender Rose who humbly arrived in a stable was prepared to be the last sacrifice God would ever desire. Baby Jesus, man and God, human and divine, God’s love and mercy, put on flesh for all to see.
This Flow’r, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Even though cold and darkness still surround, the tiny Rose of hope has already pierced the night. And now, everything is different. The sweet aroma of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ overpowers the icy winds that seek to destroy. The Flower, who willingly became fragile born of a virgin, exposed in a dirty stable, punished on a cross of shame, He will never be crushed anymore. The Rose of life emerged on the earth small and frail, but He will never lay dormant again.
The fragrance of life, only inhaled in the Garden of Eden, sweet and uninhibited, returned to the people of God. The splendor of the first creation is now remembered in the Rose that is Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5).
Dispels with glorious splendor, the darkness everywhere.
Light and everlasting life that filled the beginning of God’s creation through Christ now fills our darkness. Although consumed in the night, we perceive the promise of God in our ears, we breathe in the sweet aroma of the flower that ever blooms. So, the darkness before our eyes is not so black, because we hear, we smell, we hope for the same glorious splendor as those who have also anticipated the sweet Savior from the beginning.
True man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us, and lightens every load.
And this is how He saves us. The majesty of God walks on our earth. The holiness of the Almighty dwells in our dirt. An unblemished Rose flourishes in spite of the dying roots below. Prophets saw pieces of repentance and glory, parts of destruction and reconciliation of God to his people. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Heb 1:1-2). Now, this Rose is ever blooming as His words are planted in our ears. This Rose is ever blooming as His life is sprinkled over our head and heart. This Rose is ever blooming as His forgiveness touches our lips. True man, yet very God, is the long-anticipated Rose that has sprung up for us and continues to lighten every load.