Our family wasn’t big into Christmas trees. In the living room the focus was the crib and behind it was a fairly insignificant plastic tree covered in tinsel . A friend of mind always has a big tree on which she daringly places candles which are lit occasionally when everyone is in the room. The tree is very much part of any home’s decoration. But there are those who object to a tree being in the Sanctuary of the Church. This year, at St Thomas, the tree appears this Sunday. But there are no lights or decorations. This tree will be our Jesse Tree. What is a Jesse Tree? The Jesse tree helps us connect the custom of decorating Christmas trees to the events leading to Jesus’ birth. The Jesse tree is named from Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Jesse was the father of King David. We adorn a Jesse tree with illustrated ornaments that represent the people, prophesies, and events leading up to the birth of Jesus. The ornaments of the Jesse tree tell the story of God in the Old Testament, connecting the Advent season with the faithfulness of God across four thousand years of history. This Sunday the children will hang the first seven ornaments on the tree. The Sun recalling God’s creation, an apple reminding us of the story of Adam and Eve, Noah’s ark or a rainbow reminding us that God saved the human family through Noah, a star reminding us of the the promise made to Abraham, a ram recalling Abraham willing to sacrifice his son Issac, a ladder representing the Jacob’s ladder and the coat of many colours recalling how Joseph is used by God to save his people in Egypt. Each Sunday they will add more symbols until the tree is covered with images of our history of salvation.
At the end of the Advent season, as you decorate your own tree, here is a prayer you can say before you switch on the lights.
Lord our God,
we praise you for the light of creation:
the sun, the moon, and the stars of the night.
We praise you for the light of Israel:
the Law, the prophets, and the wisdom of the Scriptures.
We praise you for Jesus Christ, your Son:
he is Emmanuel, God-with-us, the Prince of Peace,
who fills us with the wonder of your love.
Let your blessing come upon us
as we illumine this tree.
May the light and cheer it gives
be a sign of the joy that fills our hearts.
May all who delight in this tree
come to the knowledge and joy of salvation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.