The Jesse Tree - an Advent Devotional Practice

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“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1)

For hundreds of years, people have drawn, painted, and sculpted Jesse Trees to depict the people in Jesus’ family tree. In fact, some Jesse Tree art is over 500 years old!

Today, the Jesse Tree is usually a branch or tree on which we hang symbols that help us remember the stories of people in Jesus’ family tree. The stories represented on the Jesse Tree aren’t the only important stories, nor is every Jesse Tree the same, but they are some of the critical stories that tell of God’s ongoing faithful action to come near to us.

The Jesse Tree is typically a 24-day practice that people can use to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas. It helps us enter more fully into the church season of Advent, which anticipates the coming of Jesus and is a season of expectation. The Jesse Tree provides us with a tangible way to count down and look toward Jesus’ coming through the stories of the Old Testament. It’s a great way to enter this season!

The use of symbols to teach or to reflect on who God is and who we are has a long tradition in Christianity. St. Augustine (5th century) used the image of a pear tree to reflect on his own brokenness. Julian of Norwich (15th century) had a vision of a ball the size of a hazelnut that she used to meditate on God’s care and love for his world. St. John of the Cross (16th century) depicted part of our spiritual journey as being like a dark night. Architects and artists used stained glass and carved stone in the great cathedrals to help teach illiterate Christians the stories of the Bible.

This version of the Jesse Tree tries to take some small steps into this image-rich tradition. Each day’s reflection is not just a reiteration of the biblical story. Rather, it is an attempt to use images to explore more deeply the truth of God’s story. The simple, arresting, and beautiful artwork is there to help you along with that journey. The hope is that this approach will allow you (and whoever you might be exploring the Jesse Tree with) to meditate on and call to mind these stories in a visual way. Christians have been doing it for a long time, so why not join in?

"This will surely be a Christmas grace to people of every age and spiritual experience. Take and read!"

Kevin Adams / Author of 150: Finding your story in the Psalms

“The Jesse Tree is a compelling and satisfying way to mark the days in anticipation of Christ’s birth.  When God’s ageless story is told in this way, its beauty rings true for those who know it well and those hungry to learn it.  You’ll be blessed by the gifts of stillness and grace that lie within this book.”

Aaron Antoon / Worship Leader at Granite Springs Church

Matt Timms and Sam Gutierrez who both work at Granite Springs Church in Lincoln, California have created a modern Jesse Tree that will excite and connect with both young and old. Order the book from Amazon.com (see link below). Then, follow the link on the inside cover to download PDF's of all the artwork to print, cut out and hang on your own Jesse Tree.

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