Today's "oh!" antiphon is rooted deeply (pun intended) in the kingly tradition of the prophet Isaiah. The phrase "root of Jesse" evokes the Messianic family tree. Out of King David's father, Jesse, sprang the kingly line of Israel. Out of his kin was Messiah Jesus to come.
On top of our TV cabinet at home we proudly display pictures of our relatives... both past and present. My grandparents, uncles, aunts, and my own sons are there. The pictures remind us that we are part of something larger, something bigger than just the few people who live within these four walls which we call our home.
Similarily, the connection between Jesus and his ancestors reminds us that this Nativity involves many more folk than are visible to the naked eye. Behind Mary and Joseph stand many generations of wakeful ,hopeful Israelites and other people of good will who longed for a Prince of Peace and Justice to come and help them. We join in that waiting throng today.
The picture above is a fresco of "the Root of Jesse" from the Church of St George at Voronet Monastery in Romania, a visual representation of Jesus' "rootedness."
This rootedness of Jesus is reflected in both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures:
"There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots... And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious." (Isaiah 11:1-10)
"And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, "I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will." From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Saviour -- Jesus." (Acts 13:22-23)
"I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star." (Revelation 22:12)
And so today, we join many others, seen and unseen, living and deceased, in praying for our Lord's Advent:
Root of Jesse, you stand for an ensign of humankind;
before you kings shall keep silence,
and to you all nations shall have recourse.
Come, save us, and do not delay.