Jesse Tree: Celebrating the God of promises. The God who makes life when all seems as good as dead.

I think it was five years ago now that I started doing a Jesse Tree with my sons. Each year we’ve done it a little differently. This year I gathered some branches my goats had stripped bare of all leaves, stuck them in a large vase and put some lights on them. In years past we’ve pulled an ornament out for each day and placed them on the tree after that day’s reading.  But this year I decided to put all the ornaments on the tree from the start and focus more on the reading for each day.  Up until this year we’ve used Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree readings.  But this year, I decided to the family readings from the Reformed Church of America website.  They’re short and to the point (which my highly distracted 11 and 9 year need right now) and they set our minds each day on the hope of Christmas.

The Jesse Tree comes from reference to, “the Root of Jesse” in Isaiah 11.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. Isaiah 11:1-5

One of the reasons I love doing a Jesse Tree at Christmas with it’s dead branches as opposed to the pretty green fir tree is because it reminds me that my God is the God who makes promises.  And keeps them.  When I look back over history through the Jesse Tree readings I see that for thousands of year God has been showing himself faithful.  He will do what he says he will do.  And so it causes me to look forward to the promise of His return.

And all those dead branches remind me that that’s me, without Him.  And that He did the miracle.  He has born me again to a living hope.  Out of my deadness He has caused life to come.  Just as out of as-good-as-dead Abraham and Sarah, Isaac was born.  And just as out of dead Israel, Christ was born.   In my deadness God has birthed new life in me.  His Holy Spirit is my deposit, guaranteeing one day, I will be completely new and alive with eternal life.

This is my God.  He makes promises. He doesn’t lie.  He keeps them, no matter how long has gone by and no matter how impossible things may seem.  He will do it.

Quieted,
Sheila

Marveling at our history of grace

It’s my fourth year doing it. You’d think I’d be on track by now. I don’t know why I thought that today was November 31st. I guess I forgot that old rhyme I learned back in first grade.  When I ran into my friends from church who are about to have their first baby in a few weeks, and Michele, the mom to be, mentioned her baby shower tomorrow, my brain instantly began searching my non-exsistent mental calender.  I seriously need an iPhone with Siri for the sole purpose of having it vocally remind my of appointments and dates.  Written calendars do me no good.  They’re not right in front of my eyes!

Anyway, so when I got the stuff for making our Jesse Tree ornaments a little more permanent from the craft store and started putting them together this evening at home with Ryland, I realized we were supposed to start the Jesse Tree on the 29th.  So, tonight we’ll have an extra long reading.

I’m just a little idealistic.  I’m convinced I was meant to be a wife and mom in the 1940’s.  I would like to have meaningful traditions and a little decorum in our lives.  I’d like dinner to be… special and manner-filled.  I believe, as Elizabeth Elliot said, that manners speak of that pattern shown in Christ which says, “My life for yours.”  And to some degree I believe meaningful traditions are a medium to teach truth and impress those truths on our children.  Of course the meaningful tradition is only as meaningful as the everyday life that accompanies it.  

Today I was reading thru the genealogy of Christ in the book of Matthew again to prepare for the last women’s Bible study we’re doing at my church on the five women mentioned in that genealogy.  I’ve really enjoyed digging up these women from the pages of scripture and learning more about the God in Whom I put my hope through His work in their lives.  The message that He delivers in delivering His Son through such brokenness and… messes.  Grace.  Total grace.  Unearned favor.

Anyway as I was reading thru it this morning I ran across this easily walked-right-past section in a dry genealogy:

“…and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah…” – Matthew 1:10

It caught my eye.  Hezekiah.  I remembered him as being that king who begged God not to let him die.  It seems like he might have looked back on that time after his son Manasseh was grown and wished he had have died rather than lived to see his own son do such evil.

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem.  And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had broken down, and he erected altars to the Baals, and made Asheroth, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem shall my name be forever.”And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger…The LORD spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention… -2 Chronicles 33:1-6,10

You should really go read the rest of chapter 33 actually. Sad. It’s the way we are. Without a gracious God who can even turn Manassehs around we’d be toast!

I bet if I investigated those listed in that genealogy I’d find a never-running-dry well of grace!

This is why I enjoy the Jesse Tree so much… takes you clear back to the beginning of our benevolent Creator’s gracious relation with us, His fallen Imago Dei ones. 

There are a lot of lies about God that float around, or rather aim and shoot like poisonous arrows at our minds.  But the Bible records a gracious God relating with us not as we deserve, but as He is.  Good. Period. 

Quieted,
Sheila

It’s Jesse Tree Time!

For all four of you who read my blog… I’m back. Smile. I just finished a writing marathon. 50,000 words of fiction in 30 days! It’s the National Novel Writers Month Challenge. My good friend did it last year and she challenged me to do it this year. And I’m glad I did.  It got my juices flowing.   I already have another fiction novel brewing. 

Apparently one of the fringe benefits of doing this challenge is that I get five paperback copies of what I wrote.  I think that’s cool.  I’m not sure five people would read it and if they did I’m not feeling like I’d really want them reading it.  I’m just a tad, I mean, I’m totally insecure about someone else reading it.  Maybe cause it’s a little too close to home.  I really drew on my own life experiences to since I haven’t done in research in any particular genre to write in.  Next novel I hope will come out of some more time invested in reading and research.

Now that I’m done with NaNoWriMo I can get back to reading Robinson Crusoe.  I want to read Les Miserable before I watch the musical coming out on Christmas so I may have to put Robinson Crusoe away again before the new year.  I’m enjoying Crusoe.  Even though the vernacular is a little foreign to me, I feel what Crusoe is feeling.  I felt really bad last night reading about how he’d killed a mother goat and then eventually had to kill her kid. 

Today after work I pulled out a pair of gloves and cleaned up some dead tree branches I gathered from the ground near our neighborhood park the other day. This is going to be our Jesse Tree this year! I’m excited about it.

This will be my fourth year now doing a Jesse Tree with the boys. I’m not even sure if we’ll get a typical Christmas tree.  We’ll see.  I like the smell of Christmas trees but I just can’t A) Get in the mood of winter and evergreen trees when it’s 80 degrees outside and 0% humidity and the tree is turning brown three days after I buy it.  B) See having a cut tree for the sole purpose of decorating for two weeks (or three days depending on how long it lasts) only to throw it out.

I’m sort of leaning towards have a nice “seasonal” tree somewhere in the house and decorating it every season.

But the Jesse Tree is a tradition all its own that I am very into and hope will create some great memories and learning for the kids… and the grown ups.   For me this is a very worshipful time. 

I read a daily reading from an app on my Kindle called the Common Book of Prayer. It’s just straight scripture, taken from sections throughout the Bible.  This morning’s reading was from Psalm 78:

We will not hide [them] from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done… That the generation to come might know [them], The children [who] would be born, [That] they may arise and declare [them] to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments. – Psalm 78:4,6-7

It’s what I intend to do each Christmas.

Quieted,
Sheila