Summary: The coming of Christ offers hope to lives dried out in meaninglessness, beyond our limitations, and in the midst of sin-weariness. Advent series illustrated with Chrismons
“Hope is like a harebell trembling from its birth,
Love is like a rose the joy of all the earth,
Faith is like a lily lifted high and white,
Love is like a lovely rose the world’s delight.
Harebells and sweet lilies show a thornless growth,
But the rose with all its thorns excels them both.”
So sang the poet Christina Rosetti. Poets use the music of their language to speak of flowers and of truth. But flowers use the sweetness of their scent and the delicacy of their beauty to magnify truth.
The advertisers urge us to "say it with flowers". Poets and musicians, preachers and artists, the Bible itself, speak often of one great truth with the language of flowers. That truth is Christ. The beauty of Christ. The majesty of Christ. Fairest Lord Jesus, ruler of all nature.
A thousand years before Christ came, Solomon sang a verse we have come to think of as applied to Christ. Though Solomon spoke of romantic love and of the delights of human beauty, we know that he saw beyond when he sang, "I am the rose of Sharon, the lily of the valley." The rose is the loveliest of all the flowers that bloom, and the plain of Sharon is a fertile land, where flowers grow in abundance. For us to say that Christ is the rose of Sharon is to say that we see in Him matchless beauty, wonderful grace, a face like no other face and yet a face with the dignity of all men’s’ faces. For us to say that Christ is the rose of Sharon is to say that we long for the beauty of Jesus to be seen in us, all His wonderful passion and purity.
As this Advent season begins, we long for Christ. We long for His presence in an intimate way. We thirst for His purity, we hunger for His worth, we struggle toward a touch of His glory. And, like the artists and the poets, the musicians and the prophets of old, we will learn of Him from the flowers of the field.
The theme hymn for Advent is the carol, "Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming". The theme Scripture is the first verse of the second chapter of the Song of Solomon, "I am the rose of Sharon, I am the lily of the valley." The Chrismons too will give us the message, with one of the most prominent of the Chrismons being the rose petals. All of them will say to us in these several Sundays, "A king of such beauty was ne’er before seen .. blest be the hour, welcome the morn, when Christ our dear Savior on earth now is born."
So hear the words of the prophet, Isaiah of the Exile, in chapter 35:1-10
It was Robert Burns whose poetry gave us the well-known line: "O my love is like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June.” Yes, and our love, our Christ, is like a red, red rose fresh upon the winter’s snow. A complete surprise. A total wonder. A joy and a sign of hope.
But here is what we are going to learn: that for life to flourish, a price must be paid. For the rose to bloom in the desert, it must be watered from unseen sources. For salvation to come, a price must be paid, a ransom given. God’s love is like a red, red rose; more’s the miracle, it has flourished in the winter of our discontent. And He has paid its price.
Isaiah had spoken harshly about the Judah. He had spoken of her faithlessness, he had announced her punishment. He had said that the nation must undergo a terrible thing: exile. Forty years away from home, a generation in an alien land, away from everything they called dear. Isaiah’s word spoken in chapter 34 had been harsh, unbending, and unyielding. But now the prophet was speaking in kinder, gentler terms. Now there was a word of hope for a weary people. That the plain of Sharon would once again burst with the scent of roses; that the Arabah, that vast wasteland from the Dead Sea south to the Gulf, would be watered and the barren land, among which nothing but lice and dust had grown, would someday be carpeted with blooming lilies. What a dream!
But when? And how? Who will do all this? When will our land be refreshed? And who will pay the cost?
It has always been the message of the Advent season that hope can be born in each heart, hope can rise from faith, and faith from love. And so when the prophet tells us that we can hope that barrenness may give way to life and the desert blossom as the rose, it is not only hoping that we must do. It is nourishing faith from the springs of love. But oh what love will do, what wondrous love is this!