3. O Root of Jesse O Radix Jesse

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.

Of all the Antiphons, O Root of Jesse most clearly reminds us on Jesus’ rootedness in Jewish history. He does not enter into the world isolated, detached from what has come before. Instead, God decides to continue his relationship with humanity by coming into the smallest of nations. It is through this insignificant people that all peoples can receive God’s mercy and love.

Even within this small nation, Jesus is born to the withered stump of a royal line; the Son of God is born into obscurity. But, as this title ‘O Root of Jesse’ reminds us, Jesus joins a history of God’s championing the powerless. Jesus’ interactions only continue this theme. The powerless man on the cross, the resurrection revealed to women. We are delivered through powerlessness.

It is through this weakness that we are reconciled. He is a sign. Like Israel’s expected messiah pointing towards a promised land free from political oppression, Jesus points humanity towards our spiritual homeland- fully reconciled to God. How is he a sign? He is a sign for the same reason that the kings shut their mouths. He is a sign of how God redeems what appears to be lost.

His death, brutal and hideous, offers healing and redemption for all. What a contrast to the sanitised Christmas story we often tell ourselves. Despite the star, the shepherds, the company of angels, Jesus’ birth was as messy as ours. There, out of a mix of blood and amniotic fluid, comes God himself. His human flesh covered in waxy vernix, his first nappy black like tar. There’s nothing fluffy here.

It gets worse. The end of his life is even bloodier. Kings are appalled by this indignity. Christ’s body disfigured, open wounds pulsating and, as the New English Bible translates it, kings curl their lips in disgust. How can such repulsion be a sign from God?

Yet it is to this Christ that we make our prayer. We are impatient this Advent. We ask him to ‘delay no longer’ but, rest assured, this impatience is pleasing to God. He too longs for his creation to be delivered from its current state and be reconciled to him.

Today we pray to a Jesus who is rooted in our history. The writer of Luke reminds us that we share a common ancestor in Adam. It is from this complete humanity that Jesus goes to the cross. When we deeply consider how he suffered it makes us physically wretch. What lengths he has gone to for our deliverance? Today then, we pray to Jesus who knows our suffering. A Jesus who takes on our pain and deep shame. Our Root of Jesse who redeems our brokenness. It’s no wonder that we are impatient for him to come again- O Root of Jesse, come and deliver us and delay no longer!

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.


*** The majority of my reading around these Antiphons has been from William Marshall’s book,  O Come Emmanuel: Devotional Study of the Advent Antiphons. It’s been an invaluable resource. If you’d like to read more about the root and symbolism behind these great prayers do hunt for a copy.***

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