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HYMN FOR ADVENT 3 Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming

 Danish: En rose så jeg skyde

German: Es ist in Ros entsprungen

Norwegian: Den hev ei rose sprunge

Text: Anonymous, 14th century Tune: Michael Praetorius (1571-1621)

John the Baptist. El Greco

1.     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.

2.     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-gone was the night.

3.     This Flower, whose fragrance tender

With sweetness fills the air,

Dispels with glorious splendor

 The darkness everywhere.

True man, yet very God,

From sin and death He saves us

 And lightens every load.

Tr. Theodore Baker



Annunciation:Gabriel and Mary AnonymousSpanish1420

This most popular Advent hymn focuses on the imagery of the rose. The symbol for Mary and Christ. Protestants tended to take the rose imagery for Mary from ancient hymns and prayers and simply transfer it to Jesus, which they did with this favorite. The rose works for the story of Jesus and Mary—and is a popular image in many hymns out of the Nordic countries. We have this loveliest of flowers blooming on a stem of prickly thorns. Hardly a better way to speak of Jesus. This sweet rose born in a stable, in poverty, was born to experience all the joys and woe of human life.

It also works for this Sunday in Advent. We see John In the wilderness pointing to this new thing, the most beautiful event and person that will ever be: our Lord Jesus. We hear John the Baptist  crying in the wilderness, we see his strange clothes and diet even as he points to the good life in Christ. The people of his time recognize his message and even his dress. He reminds them of Elijah, who has been promised in Malachi 4. So when they hear a prophet is preaching in Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, they go to check him out. This is not an accidental place: it is where the Israelites entered the promised land. Now John is ushering in the new Promised Land in Jesus.

His audience, when they see and hear him, have many questions. Their questions reveal that they do have a frame for understanding him. Is he the Messiah, Elijah, a prophet? They had lived their entire lives waiting for Messiah and Elijah. Is that him out there?


John answers with interesting negatives: I am not the Christ, I am not. No. One hears echoes of Jesus who will say later I AM. What John is doing is pointing to the I AM, to God in Jesus. When they ask him why he is baptizing, he makes the distinction: I am baptizing with water, but he who comes after me will baptize with the Holy Spirit. It was fairly common to be baptized with water in John’s time—it was a way for converts to Judaism to enter into the faith. Now John is doing this as a preparation for people to be ready to see Jesus as Messiah, and the coming of something entirely new, a new Canaan, new temple, new Adam, new everything. as a consequence of this radical new thing. Things that are entirely new can be threatening: the angel is right to say to the young Mary who will bear this new life, Fear not.


That is the message we receive from all the angels at Christmas—to the father of John the Baptist, Zechariah, Gabriel to Mary, the angel to Joseph, to the shepherds, and to us. No matter what you are suffering, and many are at this time, Jesus has come to suffer with you and give you life. As we enter this most intense time of celebrations with pleasure and lovely candeight services, take a deep breath despite your hectic preparations: enjoy! Fear not, bite down on the joys we are given in this life because of Jesus’ incarnation. Let the joy dispel your fear. As the song writer put it “This Flower, whose fragrance tender /With sweetness fills the air, /Dispels with glorious splendor/The darkness everywhere.”



Miachael Praetorius

By an anonymous German poet from the 15th century, the text was discovered in a manuscript from the Monastary of St. Alban in Trier, Germany. Both German Catholics and Lutherans have used it—Catholics seeing the rose as Mary, and Protestants as Jesus. Michael Praetorius, one of the first great Lutheran composers, wrote the tune. The oldest son of a Lutheran pastor, he became the most respected musicologist of his day, His compositions and writings were highly valued. A 19th century German scholar Fredrick Layriz added several stanzas. The third here is his.



Renée Fleming and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir/Chills all the way down


Gesualdo Six, in Ely Cathedral


Danish Vocal

Oslo Gospel Choir with Sigvart Dagsland

Big Band sound



For those thinking of Christmas gifts, you might consider the book Jesus the Harmony. It has a poem for every day of the year and Bible references for each poem that put Jesus in what has been called "the red thread of salvation." Many have been using it for daily devotions; others in group Bible studies.



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