Jesse Trees are a very old Christmas Tradition and first started in medieval times. They are used to help tell the story of the Bible from Creation to the Christmas Story.

The name comes from Jesse who was the Father of the great Jewish King David. One prophecy in the Bible, in the book of Isaiah, says:

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD--
3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.           
 
Isaiah 11:1-4

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.

The first Jesse trees were large carvings, tapestries or even stained glass windows put in Churches that helped illiterate people to learn about the Bible from creation to the Christmas Story. But now Jesse Trees are used as a kind of Advent Calendar.

BIBLE STORY:

BIBLE REFERENCE:

SYMBOL:

Creation

Genesis 1

The earth

Adam and Eve / Garden of Eden

Genesis 2:4 - 3:24

A tree with fruit or an apple

Noah & the Flood

Genesis 6:9 - 9:17

A rainbow

God's promise to Abraham

Genesis 12:1-7 & 15:1-6

A tent

Isaac

Genesis 22:1-18

A ram

Jacob's Ladder

Genesis 28:10-19

A ladder

Joseph's Coat

Genesis 37 & 50

A multi-coloured coat or robe

Moses

Exodus 2:1 - 4:20

A burning bush

Israelites and the Passover

Exodus 12:1-42

A lamb

The 10 Commandments

Exodus 19:1 - 20:20

Two stone tablets

Joshua and the fall of Jericho

Joshua 6:1-20

A ram's horn trumpet

Ruth

Ruth (Whole Book)

A sheaf of corn

King David

1 Samuel 16:1-3

A six pointed 'Star of David'

Solomon's Temple

1 Kings 6

The temple

Elijah and Baal's Priests

1 Kings 18:16-39

A bonfire

Isaiah's 'Jesse' Prophecy

Isaiah 11:1-11

A tree stump with a single branch growing from it

Jonah and the Whale

Jonah (Whole Book)

A whale

John the Baptist

Matthew 3:13-17

A scallop shell

Mary

Luke 1:26-38

A white lily

Elizabeth

Luke 1:39-56

A mother and child

Zechariah

Luke 1:57-80

A pencil and tablet

Joseph

Matthew 1:19-25

A carpenter's hammer

The Shepherds

Luke 2:8-20

A fluffy sheep!

The Wisemen

Matthew 2:1-12

A gold star or the three gifts or three crowns

Jesus

Luke 2:1-8

A baby in a manger

To be able to call God Our Father is to acknowledge not only our Divine Parent but to do so together with our sisters and brothers. My relationship with God thus also necessitates a familial relationship with humanity who share this relationship – thus, one has to make the shift from a purely individual spirituality to one that is communitarian.

Hallowed be Thy Name;
May your name be held holy: A person’s name is actually a reference to the person. Hence what we mean in this petition is to acknowledge the Otherness of God.

Recognizing God’s holiness is not just about avoiding taking His name in vain or blasphemy.
To recognize the holiness of God’s name and thus person is also to be aware of our own call to ‘Be Holy for I am holy’.

Thy kingdom come,
That the Kingdom might come is not mere wishful thinking on our parts but rather a commitment to be participants, not mere onlookers, of the Kingdom, actively working towards Kingdom values of Love, Truth, Justice  & Peace.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
While it may be safely assumed that God’s Will is indeed done in heaven, we are challenged to see God’s will coming into fruition in our own lives here on earth. This can be hard for us who are used to having our own way and expecting God to accommodate to what we want; what is called for is to let go completely of our own whims and fancies, and allow God to be God, and to lead us along His Way.

Give us this day our daily bread,
One way of  translating  this phrase from the original language is more akin to ‘Give us today our bread for tomorrow’; thus expressing our daily dependence on God for all that we need for life.

It is not about satisfying our greed asking for BMWs and the such, but rather expressing our actual our needs.

Asking  God to provide for us  daily is to allow for a continuous dependence on God, rather than sliding into a false sense of feeling that we can go it alone, of not having to depend on God if we already had an abundance to last us for a long time.

Asking God for our needs does not mean that we abandon responsibility for working for what we need but rather allowing Him to lead us to the right places and times, to sustain our efforts and strength.

and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;
Surely we need God’s forgiveness for the times we fall into sin, but this petition tells us that we cannot see it as one-way traffic coming from God’s side, but the onus is placed on us to offer forgiveness and reconciliation to people who have sinned against us. This can be very hard when we choose not to forgive and prefer to nurse our hurts and thus are encumbered with excess baggage of unforgiveness.

and lead us not into temptation,
Whether God leads us or allows us temptations or we seem to look for them is debatable, but the fact is that we find ourselves often tempted , but what we are asking here ist be allowed to fall into temptation. Temptation by itself is not sin, but we can take the step into sin – what is needed is not just a firm resolve on our part but also God’s protection and guidance.

but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Surely God protects us from Evil, but asking that we be delivered from evil (or the Evil One, as the original translation suggests) is to also recognize our own call to avoid evil and situations of evil and sin.

Saying Amen (meaning: It shall be so!) at the end of a prayer is to entrust everything to God, with faith and anticipation that God does indeed answer our prayer according to His Will.

 

This article was originally written by Fr Gerard Theraviam for CANews in May 2013

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