Blog Spot – Advet: The Jesse Tree (Rosalind Singleton)

Blog Spot – Advet: The Jesse Tree (Rosalind Singleton)

Advent Tradition:  The Jesse Tree

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
Isaiah 11:1

When I was growing up the 1st of December was a much anticipated and important day in the year.  It was when my brother and I finally got our advent calendars and could open the first door to see the picture behind. We were also allowed to start playing our small but well-loved collection of Christmas music on cassette.  I think mum was so strict on the music rule as she knew that once those tapes were available to us, she would have to listen to them constantly until Christmas Eve.

As an adult I still love the season of Advent.  Part of this love of advent comes from the way God finally won me over.  It was a “Why Jesus?” booklet handed to me at the end of a Christmas Eve service that finally convinced me to give my life to God, but He had been working on me for months.  I wanted this season to be as precious and exciting for my son.

Much of the talk amongst mums in December is about the things they are doing with their children to make Christmas special and build memories. Obviously, Santa is often the main feature of these, with chances to see him on a train or take afternoon tea with him being very popular. Being a music teacher means that December is ludicrously busy for me and has been throughout my working life.  That was even before I had to slot in my own son’s nativity play, school fair and so on. One of the traditions which has stuck in our house is the Jesse Tree.  This just takes us a few minutes every day and builds that wonderful expectation towards celebrating the birth of Jesus.

A Jesse tree can be thought of as the family tree of Jesus.  Stained glass or carved versions of them were used long ago in churches as visual depictions to help the illiterate.  The major happenings and characters of the bible from Creation to the birth of Jesus are covered.  It is an excellent way to show that the arrival of Jesus had been long anticipated.  It was an ending as well as a beginning. 

From the 1st of December we read a chapter a day of The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean and create a tree ourselves.  I call it a tree, but it is really just some large twigs we pick up on a walk and put in a vase.  Some years I even manage some sparkly lights!  Then each day we get out the relevant decoration and hang it on a tree when the chapter has been read.  As Christmas comes closer our tree becomes more and more covered with symbols of our faith and bible heroes.

The book itself is written as a novel.  A cantankerous old man called Mr Butterworth is working in a church to carve a Jesse tree during the summer.  A boy on holiday keeps coming in and disturbing his peace and quiet, and develops a great skill for getting Mr Butterfield to tell him the stories that match the symbol he is carving each day.  The bible retellings are compelling and the changes in Mr Butterworth do well in showing there is hope for us all with Jesus in our lives.

Other traditions?  This year we are trying to hold off on the Christmas music until the 1st of December.  What the picture is in the advent calendar will be a highlight of breakfast time throughout December.  Oh, and did I mention we eat a chocolate once we have hung the ornament up?!