(I received a free Mosaic Jesse Tree as a review copy. This post may contain affiliate links; I may receive compensation if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. My opinions are entirely my own. You can see my full disclosure policy here. Thanks bunches.)
Advent is coming!
I do still feel a little clueless about Advent. I mean, I understand the idea well enough; I’ve known about Advent for a long time. I have been in churches that did Advent, years ago. But after many years of mostly ignoring Christmas (and completely ignoring Advent), I feel a little lost when it comes to creating meaningful traditions in our large, very busy family.
First of all, what is a Jesse Tree?
A Jesse Tree is a visual, hands-on way to contemplate the many ways in which Jesus’ nativity is a fulfillment of Messianic prophecies. The Jesse Tree has been a part of the artwork of the Church for centuries; creating one at home is a great way to tour those prophecies with our families.
First, in His genealogy.
The Jesse Tree is named from the prophecy of 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, and the first 16 days of the Jesse Tree show us how Jesus fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy.
Then, in the O Antiphons.
The “O Antiphons” are one of those Catholic things that sounds really weird when you have never heard of them. It’s not actually weird (unlike some things…ahemrelics) (disclaimer – relics are actually awesome and amazing. They are also weird).
Protestants may be more familiar with the O Antiphons as the inspiration for the classic Advent hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Here is what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has to say about the O Antiphons:
“The Roman Church has been singing the “O” Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.”
So, after the genealogy, the next seven days of the Jesse Tree is an opportunity to meditate on different Messianic names for Jesus. After that, there are ornaments and meditations for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
How to Use a Jesse Tree
A Jesse Tree is used just like an Advent calendar. You hang one ornament per day on your tree, and complete a meditation that corresponds with the image on the ornament.
You can use any kind of tree. People use their regular Christmas trees, a smaller Christmas tree, a good-sized bare branch potted with marbles or some such, or even a paper tree on the wall. Whatever floats your boat; I’m thinking we will go with the branch this year to tie into the imagery of Isaiah 11:1.
Sara has made this really easy.
Her Mosaic Jesse Tree kit comes with 25 high quality, sturdy cardstock ornaments bearing her original artwork. The kit also comes with a full-color devotional book that features the corresponding ornament and includes a Scripture reference, meditation, and a prayer for each day. I was extra delighted to receive the “ready to hang” version, but you can also save some money by ordering the “assembly required” version, which needs to be cut out, hole punched, and hung on the provided ribbons. Either way, I’m really in love with this set and how simple it will be to try out this tradition in our home this year.
One thing that we have loved in the Catholic Church is the abundance of hands-on, tangible ways to remind ourselves of the truths of the faith and communicate them to our kids. Learning these new traditions takes time! On the way, we’re finding the ones that work for us, and we are seeing how our lives and faith are continually renewed, refreshed, and deepened.
What are your favorite Advent traditions?
Updated to add: these gorgeous ornaments and meditations are SOLD OUT as of 11/29/2017. Sara has now made available a printable digital version so that you can print these out and color them yourself. What a fun family project!