The Jesse Tree is a unique Advent tree project that can be very useful and fun for teaching children about the Bible at Christmas.
The Jesse Tree represents the family tree, or genealogy, of Jesus Christ. It can be used to tell the story of salvation, beginning with creation and continuing until the coming of the Messiah.
The name ‘Jesse Tree’ comes from Jesse who was the Father of the great Jewish King David. One prophecy in the Bible, in the book of Isaiah: 11: 1-4, says:
“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall 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. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.”
A branch is a sign of new life and new beginnings. Jesus was a descendent of King David and Christians believe that Jesus is this new branch.
STORY OF THE JESSE TREE
Jesse was the father of the great King David of the Old Testament. He is often looked upon as the first person in the genealogy of Jesus.
In Church art a design developed showing the relationship of Jesus with Jesse and other biblical personages. This design showed a branched tree growing from a reclining figure of Jesse. The various branches had pictures of other Old and New Testament figures who were ancestors of Jesus. At the top of the tree were figures of Mary and Jesus. This design was used mostly in stained glass windows in some of the great medieval cathedrals of Europe. The Cathedral of Chartres (which was dedicated in 1260) has a particularly beautiful Jesse Tree window.
Another development in religious art during the Middle Ages was that of Mystery Plays–drama that depicted various Bible stories or lives of Saints and Martyrs. These plays were performed in churches as part of the liturgical celebrations. One such play was based on the Bible account of the fall of Adam and Eve. The “Tree of Life” used during the play was decorated with apples. (Quite possibly this is also the forerunner of our own Christmas tree.)
Combining the two ideas of the stained-glass Jesse Tree window and the Tree of Life from the Mystery Play we come up with our Jesse Tree Advent project. This custom has been used for years to help Christians to prepare for Christmas.