The Jesse Tree: An Overview
Advent is not Christmas, regardless of what Target and Carson’s is selling. In the secular world, the line between the two liturgical seasons is blurred.
That line is blurred for many Catholics, as well. It is tempting to put up the Christmas tree and play Christmas music as soon as Thanksgiving is over. The practice of Christmas feels like Advent is just the precursor to Christmas, and December 25th is the pinnacle of that celebration.
However, Advent is not supposed to be “celebrated” the way Christmas is. It is a penitential season, a liturgical time that could be considered a mini-Lent (fasting, almsgiving, penance). And it’s definitely not a time to go to parties or gorge oneself on Santa cookies. (The author admits to falling prey to this every year. If you do, you are not alone.)
Advent begins the liturgical new year, and it starts with the 4th Sunday before Christmas. Each of the four Sundays is marked with the lighting of another candle on the Advent wreath, symbolizing each one of the four thousand years that the Jewish people awaited the birth of the Savior. It is a time of waiting for us, as well … waiting, watching, preparing. It is a time of quiet reflection, and it’s hard to be contemplative and still in a world that spends each December frenzied by the preparation and shopping during the days and weeks before Christmas Day.
So, the question is, how do we adjust our Advent season to better reflect the mind of the Church? Suggestions for the preparing of our hearts during Advent include adding daily Mass to our routine (even if it’s just once a week), praying the rosary, going to confession, and offering up small sacrifices as a penance for our sins. Finally, we suggest the Jesse Tree.
The Jesse Tree is an ancient Catholic tradition that is easy to work into our daily routine during Advent. It is a prayerful study of our salvation history. It is called a Jesse Tree because Jesse was the father of King David, and from Jesse’s line, our savior is promised:
But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.a
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:b
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the peoples—
Him the nations will seek out;
his dwelling shall be glorious.
… and we see his name in both genealogies in the New Testament (Matthew 1:6; Luke 3:32).
Typically, people make ornaments and hang them on a tree (and this can be a drawing of a tree — make it simple!). Every day, we add an ornament and read the scriptures attached to that ornament, marking that moment is in the Old Testament. Kids can make the ornaments; or, you can print these ornaments from Michele Quigley’s blog:
Page with directions and sample: http://michelequigley.com/the-jesse-tree/
These ornaments are lovely, festive, and self-explanatory. You just print them, attach a ribbon, and hang them up. What could be simpler? The scripture passages for each day are right on the ornament.
This is a wonderful family devotion. If you add an Advent wreath to your dinner table and do the Jesse Tree reading after you eat, you and your family will take a journey through scripture and history that will deepen your love for Christ and your awe of the Incarnation come Christmas Day.