Monday, December 8, 2014

The Tradition of the Jesse Tree

An apple for Adam & Eve
One of my favorite Advent traditions is the Jesse Tree. We generally set up our tree the first week of Advent and add the lights, but leave them unlit (except when I feel like I need to remind myself that the people in darkness have seen a great light). Then we add symbols of Old Testament and New Testament characters. Sometimes I also put on symbols for the special saints that grace the December calendar like St. Nicholas.

Baby "Noses"
We've already put on a "disco ball" to represent creation, apples for Adam and Eve, sheep and a little sheaf of "wheat" for Cain and Abel, a picture of Noah's ark and a white bird for the dove, a stack of wood and a (butter) knife for Abraham and Isaac, a ladder (from the doll house) for Jacob, a colorful folk doll for Joseph and his many colored coat, a baby doll in a basket for Moses (or "Noses" as my three-year-old granddaughter insists), and today a lily for Mary on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

My oldest child's favorite Jesse tree "ornament" (It tickles her funny bone). is the grey dolphin puppet who masquerades as the whale in the Jonah story. By the time we are ready to "decorate" the tree a few days before Christmas, it will already be filled with wonderful symbols of our faith journey gathered from around the house. I love using everyday objects that we see all year in this special way during Advent.

When grandchildren are here for our Advent wreath lighting (all too infrequently I'm sorry to say) we let them add the figures to the tree and we tell the stories of the characters. My Jesse tree box still has a crown for David, a lion for Daniel, a necklace for Esther, a gleaner's basket for Ruth, and a golden rose for Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th. John the Baptist will get a bee representing his wild honey and Joseph will be represented by a plastic hammer from a child's workbench. And we'll top the tree with the star of Bethlehem.

The Jesse tree makes Advent waiting a wonderful journey through salvation history. How I love it! What a Church we have that offers us so many traditions that help us grow in our faith.

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