Many families mark the days of advent with a traditional advent calendar, opening a tiny door for each day leading up to Christmas. Our family advent tradition, the Jesse Tree focuses on tracing the storyline of God's family from Creation to Cross. We all have a family tree--branches filled with mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The Jesse Tree is a means by which we remember God's family line and heritage as well as our place in it. As Christian parents, we remember our adoption into God's family by his grace. As we teach our children we pray that God will include them in this family by giving them living faith.
What is a Jesse Tree? In our home, it is a tiny 1.5 foot discount store Christmas tree (pictures to come in future posts). On it, we hang a laminated paper ornament for each day of Advent. Each ornament on the tree represents the story of a person in Jesus' family tree. In Isaiah 11:1 we read, "A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." Jesse was the father of David, Israel's greatest king. And it was from David's lineage that Jesus came. That's where the idea of using a Jesse Tree to celebrate Advent came from. Before a symbol is hung on the tree, a Bible passage or a story from a story Bible is read. This is the story of God's family, the story of our family. As we read his Word, we remember that Jesus came for his family, Jesus comes to us, and he will come again. Come Lord Jesus.
Over the next few weeks, I'll give a brief outline of the stories and symbols that we're using at the Kennedy house for our Jesse Tree. In putting together this project, we've found the following resources to be very helpful. At the Reformed Church in America website, you'll find symbols and patterns for the Jesse Tree (PDF), suggestions on how to make a Jesse Tree and ornaments (if you are extra crafty), and family devotions based on the Jesse Tree. Another helpful resource is the book The Glorious Coming: A Jesse Tree Advent Celebration by Ann Voskamp. For another Family Worship Advent idea, see this post at Sojourn Music's website.
Jesse Tree Outlines for November 30th-December 2nd (adapted for our toddlers from the RCA website and The Glorious Coming. The symbols and patterns used below are copyrighted by Reformed Church Press)
November 30: The Branch
Isaiah 11:1-2 (NLT) "Out of the stump of David's family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD."
God has a plan for everything. Long before Jesus was born lived a man named Jesse. Jesse had seven sons; the youngest was named David. When David grew up, he became a great king of Israel. God had a plan for Jesse and for his son David even before they were born. Jesse's son was David, but Jesse's great, great, great, (too many greats to say)... grandson was Jesus. Jesus was born many, many years after David. People waited a long time for the birth of the Savior. The season of Advent is a season of waiting for us, too. We wait for Christmas, when we celebrate Jesus' birthday. It is hard to be patient, especially when we are waiting for something wonderful like Christmas! But it is important to learn to be patient, and to trust that God has a plan for us, too. Dear God, we are thankful for your plan. Please help us to be patient as we wait for Jesus' birthday.
December 1: Creation
Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV) Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
God is the creator of all things. God made the world and everything in it: the air and the water, the plants and the fish, the animals and the people. When God finished creating the world, it was perfect. When God first created people, even they were perfect. God created man and woman for his own glory, to show his goodness and his greatness. They did not sin or do anything to make God unhappy. Even though there is now sin and sadness in the world, God still cares for us. He still creates life where there is nothing. Thank you God for making this beautiful world. Come Lord Jesus and make all things new.
December 2: The Fall
Genesis 3:14-15 (NIV) So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
Yesterday we read about the perfect world that God created, including perfect people. Today we read in the Bible about Adam and Eve, and how they disobeyed God. God had given them everything, and had only asked that they not eat the fruit of one special tree. But Eve and Adam did eat the fruit. They believed the serpant's lie instead of trusting God. Eating the fruit brought sin into the world. God still loved Adam and Eve, but he had to punish them for disobeying him. God sent them out of the beautiful garden, and they had to work for their food. God also made a promise to Adam and Eve: that one day he would send his Son to crush God's enemies and defeat sin and death once and for all. The Fall says it all--it perfectly describes our sinful lives and hearts. But You have come to crush our sins. And that has changed everything.