What is a Jesse Tree?
On November 29th, following the 10:00 Morning Prayer service, parishioners of all ages are invited to gather together in the sanctuary to make ornaments for our “Jesse Tree” and for your Jesse Trees at home. In case you aren’t sure what this all means, here is an explanation…
The Jesse Tree is a simple idea with profound ramifications. The name of the tree comes from a messianic prophecy from Isaiah 11:1: “Then a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a branch will bear fruit”. This “branch” from the line of Jesse is Jesus Christ (whose lineage descends from King David’s father, Jesse). The Jesse Tree tradition, along the lines of a family tree, traces God’s plan for salvation for humanity from the beginning of time. It demonstrates God’s faithfulness and grace to His creation throughout history, from His covenant with the nation of Israel to the fulfillment of His deliverance through Christ.
Essentially, families create or purchase a small tree and then place an ornament on that tree each day in December. Each ornament represents part of the salvation story and is accompanied by a related reading from scripture. Beginning with creation (often represented by the earth), and ending with Christ’s birth in Bethlehem (represented by the Chi-Rho symbol, candle, manger, or similar symbol), each day uses scriptural passages to illustrate God’s work throughout history in revealing His plan of salvation through Christ. Some of the other scriptural themes/ornaments include: the first sin (tree with fruit and serpent), God’s leadership through Moses (burning bush), Passover and the Exodus (lamb), the giving of the law at Mount Sinai (tablets), the exile of the Jews (tears), repentance and John the Baptist (water), and the hope of a Messiah through Mary (mother and child). Families read the appropriate passage and put the related ornament on the Jesse Tree for that day.
The Jesse Tree is a tradition that can grow as your family grows. Even the youngest of children enjoy pulling out the ornament for the day and putting it on the tree. Older children can make their own ornaments, so that the Jesse Tree becomes truly personal and unique. In addition to the scriptural readings each day, the process of making and hanging the ornaments helps to inculcate the scriptural truths around each piece of God’s revelation through history, and provides children the background behind why Christ’s birth at Christmas is so meaningful. An added benefit is that each ornament and reading serves as an advent calendar to help children count down the days until December 25th. Parents can even put the ornament for the day (or typed-out scripture passage of the day) into a traditional advent calendar, so that children can mark each day with the Jesse Tree tradition, rather than with candy.
With all of the commercialism and busyness of the season, it is easy to lose track of the meaning of Christmas. Gifts to buy, parties to attend, halls to deck…in the midst of the frenetic holiday hubbub, the Jesse Tree can help to anchor your family each day to the deeper significance of Christmas. In a tradition that incorporates creativity and rituality with teaching and values, homeschoolers can step away from the Christmas commotion into the presence of the Prince of Peace.