URC Daily Devotion 19th December 2022

19 December 2022 

O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)

O Root of Jesse,
standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

“the Root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples” (Isaiah 11:10)
“kings shall shut their mouths because of him” (Isaiah 52:15)
“him the Gentiles shall beseech” (Isaiah 11:10)


Last year, after I was ordained and we’d moved into the manse, we discovered a patch of garden, that had been cleared, was once home to fruit trees. Our neighbours told us of their relief that they’d been cut down, but I felt sadness for the loss of all that fruitful potential. 

This set me on a mission to look for replacement trees – hopefully some that might not grow too large so as not to disturb the neighbours. Experienced gardeners will know of the horticultural technique to ensure a smaller fruit tree. A fruiting species is grafted onto the rootstock of another smaller species – the roots being the most significant determinant of a tree’s eventual stature. 

When we read of the Root of Jesse in Isaiah (sometimes translated as the Stump of Jesse), we are offered an image of the state of the nation of Judah following the exile in Babylon – a nation so ground down all that is left is a stump of roots. The promise that the Messiah would spring forth from Jesse’s stump, both recognised the nation’s desperate state and need to be delivered from their oppressors, while affirming that it would be from the royal Davidic lineage that the Messiah would come. 

The O Antiphons beautifully frame the springing forth of Jesus, the Messiah as both originating from and embodying the Root of Jesse. The provenance of Jesus’ origin is a clear fulfilment of prophecy. It is on the rootstock of this nation, this chosen people of God that the Messiah has come – an emblem of God’s love for all peoples’ and in whose presence oppressors will be brought low. 

To return to the image of fruit trees, the principle of grafting for eventual size can also act in reverse. And so it is with us – as we are grafted into Christ, it is in and through Emmanuel (God’s own rootstock in human form) that we can reach our fullest human stature. 


as we journey through Advent,
and await the coming of Emmanuel,
we look upon the many crises affecting our world,
seeing little but a landscape 
of bare roots and stumps.

Grant us not just hope,
but strength and nourishment
from your deep, deep roots. 
May our arms be as branches 
reaching out into your world – 
agents of love, justice, and mercy 
in Christ’s name. Amen.




Today’s writer

The Rev’d Jonnie Hill, Minister in the Greater Manchester South & Cheshire Missional Partnership


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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