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.
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.”
And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”
My favorite Christmas card is a plain drawing of a tree stump. Out of that stump is growing a small shoot—only a couple of leaves yet. I don’t remember whether it was sent to us, or whether my father bought it, but year after year it was displayed during Advent on his roll-top desk as a reminder to our family that Christ’s coming is the fulfillment of the promise of Isaiah 11:1. There is a stump where a tree used to be. There is also life where there was death. That shoot is a testimony of God’s everlasting kindness. Of his faithfulness. And it reminds us that our God is a redeemer. He doesn’t abandon us, He bought us back from death.
I had a great childhood, but I remember when Christmas started being hard. When I knew my life wasn’t “dashing through the snow” or “laughing all the way,” but felt like it should. The contrast between “Christmas as a party” and my experience just made the season harder. But I came to realize that I didn’t need a break from sadness or a happy party; I needed an answer to sin. I needed the promise that God is a redeemer. He is true to his promises. When the only thing left is a stump, He will redeem. He won’t abandon his chosen ones. His original promises will bear fruit. I am so thankful for that today.
I love the minor key of this hymn, as it speaks to my heart of both our sinful state and the longing of generations of God’s people for the fulfillment of these promises. Isn’t it wonderful that the response to each plea—to each ‘O’—is a call to Rejoice! Because God is with us. Jesus came, and “all the promises of God find their Yes in him.” (1 Corinthians 1:2)
“Work in me more profound and abiding repentance;
Give me the fullness of godly grief, that trembles and fears, yet ever trust and loves, which is ever powerful, and ever confident;
Grant through the tears of repentance I may see more clearly the brightness and glories of the saving cross.”
– From The Valley of Vision