Monday, December 19, 2016

#406, in which with Mary we behold it

"Es ist ein Ros entsprungen" is the name of today's song, more commonly known in English as "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming." You may be able to guess, but the song is German in origin, and has to do with a prophecy foretold to Isaiah: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots." Most of the songs we sing for Christmas have to do with witnessing the manger scene, but in this one, we sing about the fact that the birth was foretold centuries in advance.
Lo, how a rose e'er blooming,
From tender stem hath sprung.
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
As men of old have sung;
It came, a flow'ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.
Isaiah referred to the Savior as a "rod," perhaps emphasizing His role as lawgiver and governor, but the choice in this song to refer to Him as a rose emphasizes instead His beauty and gentleness, I think. (Yes, every rose has its thorn.) I think the image of a rose is also carefully chosen in that it suggests a surprising beauty, to me at least. The nation of Israel was watching for their Savior for countless ages, but they did not expect Him to come to a backwater town like Bethlehem. That such a grand event would happen in a tiny town like this must have been surprising, to say the least.
Isaiah 'twas foretold it,
The Rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it,
The virgin mother kind;
To show God's love aright,
She bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.
The phrase "with Mary we behold it" speaks volumes to me. She and Joseph were joined in the stable by animals, shepherds, and later the Magi, all of whom beheld the Babe with wondering awe. None of them knew as she did what this Child would become. An angel appeared to her and told her who the Child would be, and she willingly consented to bear Him, but I think even she must have been overcome at the magnitude of the moment. It's one thing to expect a baby and do your best to prepare for it, but it's something else entirely once the baby is real, and in your arms, and looking to you for comfort and protection. To have that baby also be the Savior of the world must have been overwhelming. And so we behold it, all of us, shepherds and magi alike, together with Mary, only dimly grasping the cosmic importance of the tiny King in the manger.

It's a very gentle song, fitting for a gentle scene, and aptly represented by a gentle image. 

Previously in this series

Coventry Carol

The Holly and the Ivy

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Wexford Carol

I Saw Three Ships

We Three Kings

Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella

In the Bleak Midwinter

Little Drummer Boy

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