Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s linage coming
As men of old have sung.
It came, a flower bright
Amid the cold of winter
When half-gone was the night.
Lo’ How a Rose is a Fifteenth Century German hymn based upon the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1 that a branch would grow up from the stump of Jesse and bear fruit. That verse was a reminder to God’s people that even if they seemed defeated and the spiritual night seemed long, there would be victory. God had not left his people and never would.
The song captures this promise well.
Think of the lines: “It came, a flower bright, amid the cold of winter when half-gone was the night.” The winter in mind was not so much the winter months as the winter brought on by our sin.
Spring and summer are the seasons of life and growth. Winter is when things appear dead and cold. Winter is when the days grow shorter and darkness longer. Winter is when many people struggle with seasonal depression. Winter, then, is an illustration of the darkness of our sin.
Our rebellion against God makes the world seem cold and the darkness long. Sometimes, we wonder if the light and warmth will return. We long for the hope of life. It is in this setting, spiritually speaking, that Jesus came as a rose. The stem burst up through the snow and into the darkness and a flower opened.
The winter cold would not win. Life would be victorious.
Though Jesus has already come and has promised to come again, the world still often seems locked in a spiritual winter. No wonder, Jesus warned in Matthew 24, that the love of many would grow cold. Yet, that rose is there. The solstice has passed and the light is growing brighter.
Jesus is in the world today through his Spirit and his church to bring his light against the darkness. Thus, the third stanza of the song: “The Flow’r whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere.”
The darkness will soon forever pass and spring and summer will be eternal. We have this hope and assurance because 2000 years ago in the cold of night, a “rose” bloomed and blooms forever.