An old German Christmas Carol begins with the following lines:
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 flower bright,
Amid the cold of winter
When half-gone was the night.
What an image this song paints in our imagination! A rose, the quintessential love flower, blooming in the most inhospitable and unlikely of circumstances. During winter, in the middle of the night. No one would expect to see one at that moment. If, for some crazy reason, it would bloom, we would fear for its life. Yet, it is in a dark and cold night when the hymn tells us it makes its glorious appearance.
Yes, it is a poetic, imaginative image. It is also true.
Long ago, the prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of Jesus the following way: “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 11:10). Who was Jesse? King David’s father. A root, ‘coming out’ of Jesse, was a poetic way of describing offspring, descendants. What was the prophet saying? Out of David’s throne would come the Promised One, under whose lordship the whole world would gather. This is why the angel appearing to Mary, hundreds of years later, described her Baby as one who would receive “the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32). Beautiful, right? Yet, David’s lineage is nothing to be proud about, at least from a human perspective. David himself was a womanizer and murdered. In his Gospel, Matthew makes it a point in his first chapter to show, among several things, that Jesus’ ancestors were, simply put, a mess. There are prostitutes, murderers, adulterers, liers, bad parents and faithless men and women. Not the family you and I would have chosen to give birth to the Savior of the world.
Additionally, Jesus’ birth comes after 400 years of apparent prophetic silence, during which God’s people suffer violence under Greek and Roman occupation.
What’s the point? Simple: Jesus showed up on Israel's wintry night. Just like the hymn says. This is good news for you and I. While we may be tempted to judge harshly our current situation, and deem it too hostile for hope and salvation to grow, the story of Christmas encourages us to hold on. God is not limited by your brokenness, just like He wasn’t limited by David, Jacob Rahab’s. In all times, even in the middle of the dark, in the cold, God is keeping his promise to bring forth redemption in our life. If available to God, our winter night can become the perfect moment for Jesus to show up. Just like He did for Israel, so long ago.