O root of Jesse's stem,
sign of God's love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!
When we sing the line of the popular Advent hymn, “O come, O Rod of Jesse’s stem, From ev’ry foe deliver them,” the significance of this phrase is lost on many of us. In reality, this line contains the reason for our joy, for it reminds us that no one—no one—is beyond the reach of God’s mercy.
When the unfaithful kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians (around 750 BC), Isaiah prophesied about a King who would one day arise from Jesse’s stem (Isaiah 11:1–2). That prophesy offered a beacon of hope to them…and to us today, as we read in the epistle to the Romans:
and again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.” (15:12)
Who is this “root of Jesse” who would one day rule all the nations of the world? We find the answer if we look closely at the genealogy of Jesus, whose line can be traced…all the way to the great King David, and his father, Jesse (see Matthew 1 and Luke 3). This is the Infant King whose arrival marked the beginning of a new covenant, of which he is the mediator (Hebrews 9:15).
Come Be My Light contains a reflection written by Mother Teresa in which she ponders the humble beginnings of this great king, based on a question Jesus himself raises in Matthew 16:15, “Who do you say that I am?” She replies:
You were born in Bethlehem.
You were wrapped in swaddling clothes by Mary
And put in a manger full of straw.
You were kept warm by the breath of the donkey
That carried Your mother with You in her womb.”
For her and for us, the Incarnation was a sign of hope as well as the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. Despite his meager beginnings, the Son of David and Rod of Jesse has come to earth to be our Eternal King.
A Moment to Reflect
• When you think of Jesus, how do you picture him? As a tiny infant, a preacher in the temple, the miracle worker? Why do you suppose God inspired the writers of the Gospels to take such pains to record Jesus’s lineage?
• Take a moment to answer this question Jesus is asking you, “Who do you say that I am?”
A Moment to Pray
O Root of Jesse, the promise of all the ages,
reign in my heart today.
Because of you, I am also the child of your Father,
the King of Heaven and Earth.
Thank you for this unspeakable privilege.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!
In Mother Teresa’s Own Words
"We will be the happiest people in the world if we belong to God, if we place ourselves at his disposal, if we let him use us as he pleases. To be this happy, we must belong to Jesus fully without reservation. He alone is worthy of our love and our total surrender. Once we really belong to him then he is free to use us, to do with us whatever he pleases."