An Advent Tree?

Tree of Jesse Bavaria, c. 1200

Tree of Jesse. Ivory Panel: Bavaria, c. 1200 (Musée du Louvre)

Throughout Advent, I plan to highlight various Advent themed websites. Today, I’m featuring a site designed to bring the liturgy and seasons of the church back into the home: Full Homely Divinity.

“Homely” in this case meaning “of the home” (its original meaning) instead of plain or unattractive.

Full Homely Divinity features pages on all the church seasons, including one titled Rediscovering Advent. I’ve already touched upon Advent Wreaths, Advent Calendars, and the Christmas Crechè here; another lesser known Advent tradition is the Jesse Tree:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. ——Isaiah 11:1-3

The Jesse Tree is a visual rendering of this text: with Jesse at the root and his descendants—beginning with his youngest son, King David—on the branches, and Jesus, of course, at the top:

Like the much longer genealogies of Jesus found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Jesse Tree is a wonderful device for teaching two things: the great stories of the redemption of the people of God before Jesus and the important concept of God’s eternal plan that stretches back to the beginning of time, as well as forward to the end of time. While the medieval Jesse Tree focused on a smaller window of time, from Jesse to Jesus, the Gospel genealogies are more inclusive. Matthew begins with Abraham, and Luke goes all the way back to Adam. We are not sure when people began using the Jesse Tree as an Advent activity or devotion, but it is one we highly recommend.

One of the suggestions is to use an existing Christmas tree:

There are a variety of ways to make a Jesse Tree. An evergreen tree, or an artificial version of an evergreen, may be used as a Jesse Tree in Advent and then, with a change or addition of ornaments, as a Christmas tree.

I’ve not tried this, but I could see it as a wonderful Advent practice. Begin with a mostly bare tree with a handful of cloth ornaments (like these) symbolizing the genealogy of Jesus.  Strings of purple or blue lights—in keeping with the color of the season—then add more ornaments and more lights as Christmas gets closer.

And on Gaudete Sunday perhaps a well-placed pink rose:

December 4

 Advent calendar graphics by Oh My Gluestick. They are intended for personal use only and may not be used commercially.

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