We added another Advent activity this year as a new tradition so, as a family, we can continue to focus on the real meaning of the season--of Advent, a time to prepare ourselves for Christmas. We've always done a daily nativity Advent calendar, and we've always used an Advent wreath with readings at dinnertime...but the Jesse Tree is a visual reminder of Jesus' spiritual heritage (not just genealogical) through the Old Testament leading up to Christ's birth and into the New Testament.
The Jesse Tree Kit
Here's the description from the beginning of this book:
The symbol of the Jesse Tree comes from Isaiah 11: "The royal line of David is like a tree that has been cut down; but just as new branches sprout from a stump, so a new king will arise from among David's descendants." The tree is named after Jesse, the father of the great King David of the Old Testament.
In Church art a design developed which illustrated the relationship of Jesus with Jesse and other biblical personages. This design showed a branched tree growing from a reclining figure of Jesse. The various branches had pictures of other Old and New Testament figures who were ancestors of Jesus. Some trees also incorporated early Old Testament figures like Abraham and Moses, who lived long before Jesse's time. At the top of the tree were images of Mary and Jesus. This design was used mostly in stained glass windows in some of the great medieval cathedrals of Europe.
Another development in religious art during the Middle Ages was that of Mystery Plays--drama that depicted various Bible stories or lives of saints and martyrs. These plays were performed in churches as part of the liturgical celebrations. One such play was based on the biblical account of the fall of Adam and Eve. The
"Tree of Life" used during the play was decorated with apples. (Quite possibly this is also the forerunner of our own Christmas tree.)
This kit draws from elements of both the Jesse Tree window and the Tree of Life. Each ornament symbolizes a person or event in salvation history--the pattern of events in human history that accomplishes the saving action of God. By reflecting on salvation history, we see how God prepared the world for the coming of his Son.
Jesse Trees are meant to symbolize the spiritual heritage of Jesus, rather than his strictly genealogical origins. It is important to keep in mind that the Christian application of the Old Testament stories and symbols used does not minimize their own intrinsic value as Revelation.
Each day of Advent, we color one of the ornaments, read the daily scripture associated with the ornament's symbol and hang the ornament on our Jesse tree. I was looking for a manzanita branch to use as the tree, but no such luck finding one around here. So I just put a bunch of branches into a vase and placed it inside the Advent wreath in the middle of our dining table.
Our kids have been able to recall the specific biblical stories as they look at each of the ornament's symbols.
Here are some of them.
Isaac and Rebecca
I really wanted to do a homemade Jesse Tree--one with ornaments the kids totally create themselves. I knew, however, that pigs would be in flight by the time I get around to making sure all the ornaments are made. So for this year and ? more years, we'll use these paper ornaments. Seeing these symbols for a while may help the kids become familiar with them so they'll be able to come up with their own version easier in the future. At least that's what I'll tell myself until we have all homemade ornaments!
Wouldn't it be nice to think that by the time all the kids left home, they'd have their own set of handmade Jesse Tree ornaments for their own tradition?
I've added this tradition to A Meaningful Family Christmas link party. Have a looksie at the wonderful family traditions others have posted.