The Spiritual Ancestors of Jesus
A constellation of traditions exist to mark the miraculous event of Christmas: God becomes man in the person of Jesus Christ. The Jesse Tree is one such tradition. It’s the perfect complement to the great ‘Season of Saints’ in early November where we celebrate the spiritual descendants of Jesus (All Saints and All Souls Day). In the Jesse Tree tradition, we commemorate the spiritual ancestors of Jesus.
Jesse Tree Origins
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” (Isaiah 11:1)
Jesse was the father of David who is considered the greatest of Israel’s Kings. But the passage is actually understood to refer to another king, the Messiah. This image of a branch growing from the roots of Jesse thus points to a new king in David’s line. We know that Joseph, the adopted Father of Jesus, was a descendant of David (see Mt 1:1- 17) and so Christians believe that Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus, the King of Kings, the Saviour of the world.
The Jewish people, our cousins in faith, have waited patiently for hundreds of years for God’s prophecies to be fulfilled. The Jesse Tree is a tradition taps into this ancient longing and honours our spiritual heritage and illuminates the spiritual context in which Jesus lived.
Jesse Tree Traditions
The Jesse Tree is an Advent tradition that honours the holy men and women of the Jewish scriptures. Each ancestor or prophet is represented by a symbol – something that speaks of their part in the unfolding story of faith. There are numerous variations but common to them all is the use of symbols which may be drawn and cut from paper, fabric or glass, or made from found materials. Each symbol is then hung on a tree, one per day throughout the month of December/Advent. Some families keep it simple and just hang the ornaments on the tree. Others read the corresponding story in the Jewish scriptures before praying as a family.
How about making your own Jesse Tree this Advent? For instructions and a free template, check out this article. Check out the unique family prayer ritual especially for the Jesse Tree. See this article to help get your family in touch with the ancestors that prepared the way for Jesus.