Today's Lectionary Text
Isaiah 11:1A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
When my children were born, I knew my job was to give them a solid foundation of faith. At Christmastime, I observed families striving for the perfect holiday through elaborate crafts and expensive parties and gifts. They felt their worth depended on how well they could DIY Christmas. I saw how those families experienced stress and feelings of insecurity when those picture-perfect moments didn’t hold up when compared to others.
My family needed something more solid to anchor us. I remembered the faith practices my parents modeled as I grew up — family Bible time, lighting Advent candles, singing and praying together. I began searching for a new tradition to center our lives on Jesus, especially during the Christmas season.
When I came across the Jesse Tree, I knew it would suit this purpose perfectly.
The Jesse Tree refers to the prophecy in Isaiah 11:1, “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Jesse was the father of King David, from whose lineage Jesus descends.
Each day from Dec. 1 until Christmas, an ornament is hung and a scripture read that follows Jesus’s family tree from creation until his birth. We trace God’s promises through each story, ultimately fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah.
The ornaments themselves are nothing special. A decade ago, I downloaded some free printables from https://lifeyourway.net/jesse-tree-ornaments/. I printed them on normal paper, cut them out, colored them in and pasted them on pretty cardstock. A little glitter and a loop of shiny thread made them ready for the tree.
To my children, though, they were just right. They took turns each night hanging the ornament on a tree just their size, right next to the big Christmas tree. For the first several years we read the stories in their children’s Bible, filling in with Mom and Dad’s Bible when needed (and maybe paraphrasing a bit.) Now, as they approach their teenage years, they take turns reading the stories in the student Bibles given to them by our church when they reached third grade.
Some nights we must read two or three days’ worth to catch up — life is busy! But by Christmas all ornaments have made their way to the tree. The good questions and conversations inspired by the stories fill our minds while the promises of God fill our souls.
These days, there are many websites and books with resources for creating your own Jesse Tree. But here is my advice for making your own Advent tradition successful:
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