The Jesse Tree of Advent

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Each day in Advent (the weeks before Christmas), we tell a story about people and events from the beginning of the world until Jesus was born. The stories help us to understand God’s plan for the world and for people. Each day we hang an ornament to remind us of the story on a branch of our Jesse Tree.

The name Jesse tree comes from the book of Isaiah in the Bible. Isaiah said:

“A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots.”

Jesse was the father of King David, and David was the many times great-grandfather of Mary and Joseph – Jesus is the shoot from the stump and the branch from the roots of Jesse.

Here’s what I wrote for the grandchildren for the 1st Sunday of Advent:

Today, we start planning for Christmas, which seems like a long time away – four whole weeks. Sometime, it’s hard to be patient, and to wait for something wonderful. But it’s also fun to plan, and to help things happen step by step.

God’s plan for Christmas took a lot longer than four weeks. God started planning for Christmas right back at the beginning of the world.

The Jesse Tree helps us to learn about God’s plan. The tree is green, which symbolises life, and things growing from small beginnings. God’s plan for the world started with two people, and grew to be for all people. Often, during the years, God could find only one person who would say “yes” to His plan. God’s plan was like a tree with dead branches, but a growing branch that lives and is strong.

God kept preparing the world until at last there was a person to be Jesus’ mother, and a place for Jesus to be born and to grow to bring us all home to God.

http://joyfulpapist.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/god-created-the-heavens-and-the-earth/

 


 

 


 

jesse tree


A Jesse Tree is an Advent Tradition that I was unfamiliar with until recently. I had vaguely heard of the Jesse Tree and knew it had something to do with Advent. When I was a kid, our Advent rituals consisted of an Advent wreath and an Advent calendar. The Jesse Tree is a kind of suped-up Advent calendar with a strong Biblical base.

My wife stumbled on the Jesse Tree through another mom who had done it the year before. We were looking for ideas of things to do at home with our girls (3 and a half year old twins) for Christmas.

After a little bit of research, we learned about the Jesse Tree and how to make one. Here’s what we learned:

The Jesse Tree

The Jesse Tree is named after Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots.” In other words, the Jesse Tree is Jesus’ family tree. The ornaments on the Jesse Tree are meant to connect Advent and Christmas the thousands of years of history covered in the Old Testament.

How To Make a Jesse Tree

First, you’ll need a tree. This can be simple banner or an actual tree with branches. The prettiest Jesse Trees that I have seen use decorative branches to make a kind of tree (see this photo set for a beautiful Jesse Tree). You could certainly use a small Christmas tree if you wanted. You could also make a Jesse Tree with poster board. Anything goes that fits your style and has room to hang/attached 28 symbols (for each of the days of Advent).

Next, you’ll need the ornaments. The list below gives the symbol for each of the days and a related Bible passage. Your ornament can be anything that represents that symbol. There are websites where you can download drawings of ornaments to use for coloring or as a template for cutting felt. If you are feeling creative, you’ll figure out other ways to make the ornaments. The idea is to get kids to participate though coloring and decorating - so your choices will depend on the ages of the children and their interests.

Using a Jesse Tree

This is pretty simple. Everyday during Advent, one ornament gets placed on the tree. The ornaments (again, see the table below) demonstrate the history of the Old Testament leading up to Christmas. In essence, the entire Old Testament is Advent - a waiting for Christmas.

My suggestion is to choose a specific time of day, say right before dinner, to do the Jesse Tree. That will make it easier to remember and create a sense of ritual around the act of decorating the Jesse Tree. Read the Bible passage suggested below and discuss (as appropriate to the age of the children). Then place that day’s ornament on the tree.

Remember that because Christmas moves around, you may need to adjust the Jesse Tree symbols depending on the day of the weeks on which Christmas happens to fall.

 


 

 


 

Doing it “Right”

I’m not sure where the tradition of the Jesse Tree originated. As a symbol, Jesse Trees appear in French cathedrals (like Chartes) from the 1200s. But I’m not sure when people began doing Jesse Tree rituals at home. I read in some places that it become to get popular as a replacement for Christmas trees in churches because the Christmas tree, as a symbol, has roots in pagan times and has been commercialized. The Jesse Tree was an alternative that keeps everyone grounded in the meaning of Advent.

I’m not sure that is the full story about the practice of the Jesse Trees in the home; if you know more, please leave a comment. The main point is that there is no “right way” to do a Jesse Tree. Even the list of symbols varies somewhat. Feel free to substitute other Old Testament symbols if there is a passage that is particularly meaningful to your family. Feel free to do all the symbols for the week on Sunday, if that works for you. Feel free to keep the tree going with Christmas symbols like a manger, shepherds and angels if you want. Anything goes as long as the intention is to help your family stay focused on the message of Advent.

The Jesse Tree Symbols and Suggested Passages

Date

Persons

Events/Themes

Scripture

Symbols

First Sunday

Introduction of the Jesse Tree

1 Sam 16:1-13

Isa 11:1-10

The Tree

Mon

God

Creation

Gen 1:1-2:3

Dove, earth, sun

Tues

Adam and Eve

The Fall

Gen 2:4-3:24

Apple tree, apple, man and woman

Wed

Noah

The Flood

Gen 6:11-22, 7:17-8:12, 20-9:17

Rainbow, ark

Thur

Abraham

The Promise

Gen 12:1-7, 15:1-6

Stars

Friday

Isaac

Offering of Isaac

Gen 22:1-19

Ram

Sat

Jacob

Assurance of the Promise

Gen 27:41-28:22

Ladder

SecondSunday

Joseph

God's Providence

Gen 37, 39:1-50:21

Multi-colored coat

Mon

Moses

God's Leadership

Exod 2:1-4:20

Burning bush

Tues

Israelites

Passover and Exodus

Exod 12:1-14:31

Lamb

Wed

God

Giving the Torah at Sinai

Exod 19:1-20:20

Tablets of the Torah

Thur

Joshua

The Fall of Jericho

Josh 1:1-11, 6:1-20

Ram's horn trumpet

Fri

Gideon

Unlikely Heroes

Judg 2:6-23, 6:1-6, 11-8:28

Clay water pitcher

Sat

Samuel

The Kingdom begins

1 Sam 3:1-21, 7:1-8:22, 9:15-10:9

Crown

ThirdSunday

David

A shepherd for the people

1 Sam 16:1-23-17:58,

2 Sam 5:1-5, 7:1-17

Shepherd's crook or harp

Mon

Elijah

The Threat of false gods

1 Kng 17:1-16, 18:17-46

Stone altar

Tues

Hezekiah

Faithfulness and deliverance

2 Kng 18:1-19:19, 32-37

An empty tent

Wed

Isaiah

The call to holiness

Isa 1:10-20, 6:1-13, 8:11-9:7

Fire tongs with hot coal

Thur

Jeremiah

The Exile

Jer 1:4-10, 2:4-13, 7:1-15, 8:22-9:1-11

Tears

Fri

Habakkuk

Waiting

Hab 1:1-2:1, 3:16-19

Stone watchtower

Sat

Nehemiah

Return and rebuilding

Neh 1:1-2:8, 6:15-16, 13:10-22

City wall

FourthSunday

John the Baptist

Repentance

Luke 1:57-80, 3:1-207:18-30

Scallop shell

Mon

Mary

The hope for a future

Luke 1:26-38

White lily

Tues

Elizabeth

Joy

Luke 1:39-56

Mother and child

Wed

Zechariah

Anticipation

Luke 1:57-80

Pencil and tablet

Thurs

Joseph

Trust

Matt 1:19-25

Carpenter's square or hammer

Fri

Magi

Worship

Matt 2:1-12

Star or candle

Dec 24

Jesus

Birth of the Messiah

Luke 2:1-20

Manger

Dec 25

Christ

The Son of God

John 1:1-18

Chi-Rho symbol

Table adapted from The Voice

http://www.catholicstyle.net/2009/10/the-jesse-tree-an-advent-tradition.html

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Countdown to Christmas, Advent Calendars

Recycled-Tin-Can-Advent-CalendarIt’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Advent calendars, originating in Germany, have been used for well over 100 years to count down the first 24 days of December.  As each day is “marked off,” a tiny gift, candy or suggestion of a fun family activity is revealed.  With only a few days before December 1st, there is still time to make one.  From the traditional and elegant to the contemporary and simple, here are a few links to some favorites.  If your family has never had an Advent calendar, here is your chance to start a new family tradition.

Links to help you make an Advent Calendar:

http://www.skiptomylou.org/2011/11/25/counting-down-to-christmas-advent-calendars/
http://www.skiptomylou.org/2011/11/29/recycled-tin-can-advent-calendar-50-family-activities/
http://trendzona.com/interior-and-furniture/decoration/08/awesome-ideas-for-amazing-advent-calendars.html
http://www.52mantels.com/2012/11/hanging-advent-calendar-free-printable.html
http://thimbleanna.com/blog/?p=888

 

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