For over a thousand years, Christians have sung the O Antiphons in the days leading up to Christmas. Together they comprise a hymn that centers our attention on the glories of Advent and the Incarnation.
After centuries of conquest, captivity, and crownlessness, it seemed as if God had abandoned Judah, the remnant of His covenant people, to be trodden on by the Gentiles. Once, He had promised David, the son of Jesse—the shepherd boy and giant-killer—that He would establish his kingdom and throne forever.
But generations of idolatry provoked God, and Daniel’s four monstrous empires devoured the giant-killer’s kingdom. Like the barren couple from whom God had produced Israel, Judah’s throne stood truncated and fruitless, hewn in divine judgment by the axes of the heathens. So, too, the promise to Abraham to make of him a great nation that would bless the whole human family seemed to have shriveled.
But Isaiah, writing before the old tree was felled foretold this desolation, and gave another promise: that from Jesse’s charred stump, a Shoot would spring forth that would grow into a mighty tree and bear fruit for the healing of the nations.
The prophet saw a King like David, a King from humble origins, who would ascend Judah’s throne with the Spirit resting on Him like a dove, whose hands would be filled with might, who would bid the wolf lie down with the lamb and would fill the earth with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.
The nations would stream to this royal Branch, inquiring of Him and resting in His shade. And the stump of Jesse, once so desolate, would rule creation, empires that shattered his forefather’s throne kneeling gladly before Him.
[Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series. For the second, click here.]
Shane Morris is a Senior Writer at the Colson Center.
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