The Jesse Tree

Our Jesse Tree

On that day, A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.-Isaiah 11:1

Every year growing up I looked forward to Advent. My parents worked to make it special, and looking back I imagine it was to combat the pre-Christmas consumer season. Every First Sunday of Advent before dinner my father would read the blessing of the Advent wreath and the tall brand-new tapers of purple and rose. Then my eldest sister lit the first purple candle (we took turns each day) and we sang together”O Come, o come Emmanuel.”

After dinner when the dishes were cleared and washed, my mother would sit with the four of us children by our home Jesse Tree and read the first reading from Scripture. The Jesse Tree is a devotion is done by lay people in their homes during Advent.

The devotion includes having a small tree in one’s home, such as a small evergreen or a small branch of a tree from one’s yard, reading a specific reading from Scripture each day, and then hanging a corresponding ornament on the tree. By the end of Advent the whole tree is full of ornaments. In our home, my mother eventually made a tree out of felt and all the ornaments were also made of felt. (We used this devotional book which gave a guideline of readings and came with paper ornaments which we used before my mother made our own.)

This devotion of the Jesse Tree stuck with me as an adult and my first year of college I read the readings on my own until I went home for Christmas break. My first Christmas married, shortly before the birth of our first child, my husband and I hand drew our own Jesse Tree ornaments on paper and did the readings together. I am now working on a counted cross-stitch version of our ornaments.

 We use a 20 inch artificial evergreen tree to hang the ornaments. Our little girls love to hear the stories every year, and as they get older I am eager for them to learn more fully the story of Salvation history each Advent.

A home Jesse Tree can be as simple as a branch from a tree hung with the ornaments cut out from the devotional book, and there are many ideas online found with a quick search. The idea is to prepare oneself for Christmas and observe the season of Advent by reading Scripture passages that point to the coming of Christ. Some sets of readings start with Creation and move through important events of the Old Testament while others focus solely on the New Testament.

The name of the Jesse Tree comes from the fact that Jesus’ genealogy is traced to the line of Jesse, the father of David. This is why I prefer to use readings from Scripture that start with the Old Testament.

The readings we use for each day start show the ancient line of Jesus beginning with Adam and Even in the story of Creation in Genesis, and then the necessity for Christ’s birth because of the Fall; then going through Scripture we read about others in the line Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and then the prophets who told about the coming of Christ. The last week focuses on the New Testament readings leading to the birth of Jesus.

In reading about those who prefigure Christ, the prophecies about his coming, and finally the events immediately before His birth, we prepare ourselves throughout all of Advent. As we observe the liturgical season with the Church it helps keep the focus of what Christmas is really about: God becoming man, as He promised again and again throughout Scripture, so that we can again be united with Him.

Originally posted on Truth and Charity.