What is a Jesse Tree?
The Jesse Tree first appeared in the Middle Ages, and its name is a reference to Isaiah 11:1, “A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” At the time, most church goers from all classes were illiterate. The Catholic church often used stained glass windows to illustrate the stories of the Bible. In these early images, the Jesse tree was usually an olive tree, and each branch contained an image relating to the stories leading up to the birth of Christ. It wasn’t until much later, when evergreen trees were adopted by Christians that the Jesse Tree became a bridge between a pagan practice and preparation for the coming of Christ.
For twenty-five days beginning on the 1st of December, families read a scripture and share a devotional corresponding to an important story or prophecy in the Bible. Then they place a Christmas ornament with a related image on a special tree. In this way, they are brought closer together as they prepare their hearts during this liturgical season.
This year, with the support of the entire FUMC staff, I proposed we begin a tradition of using the Jesse Tree as our Children’s Christmas production. I wanted every member of our church to be offered the opportunity to be involved in its successful and meaningful execution, and I hope it will be something we do every three to five years so all children who grow up at FUMC will have the opportunity to know this beautiful tradition.
Many artists and crafters in our congregation are working diligently to make the ornaments that will be used in the performance, while the children’s choirs are preparing the music. My hope is that this production will have a similar impact on our children that it did for me thirty-five years ago.
Soli Deo gloria,
Erin M. Smith
Director of Music
The Light of Creation
Day 1 - Jesse Tree Devotion
The Light of Creation
The Gospel of John begins with God's choice of self-revelation: becoming human. Jesus is fully God and fully human and is also revealed as the Light of the World. The rest of the New Testament works tirelessly to get the point across that we too must share in this revelation of becoming Light, Children of the Light, an instrument of Light to those in darkness, a beacon of the Light of Christ. The story of Light, of God's self-expression, belongs to our human story - Let us shine brightly, for the world needs more Light!
The First Sin
Day 2 - Jesse Tree Devotion
The First Sin
Genesis 3:1-10; 23
Temptation is everywhere. The price of temptation doesn't always appear to be out of range, especially with marketing the way it is. Yes, it is difficult to resist the stuff; the parties, and the many obligations that are pulling us in every direction. When we fall for the trickery of temptation, God is still seeking us, and when we suffer the consequences of our actions, God goes with us then too. Maybe this will be the season where we say no. No, to the distractions and yes, to deeper connections with our Creator. May our connection to the Gardener grow roots so our hearts are filled with hope and joy.
Inside the Ark
Day 3 - Jesse Tree Devotion
Inside the Ark
Genesis 6:5-8; 7:13-17; 9:11-16
While we do long to be in perfect relationship with God, the truth is, that often we find ourselves out of touch with our Creator. The ways of the world, the desires of the flesh, and the fleeting moments of instant gratification from sin can keep us at a distance from God. Yet God is always ready to welcome us back!
The rainbow reminds us that while we may not always hold our end of the deal - to love God with our full heart, soul, mind, and strength - God is faithful to keep His promise. So let every rainbow you see, be a reminder that no matter how far away you feel from God, God always invites us back to a perfect relationship with Him.
Lydia Roney Wright
The Call to Abraham
Day 4 - Jesse Tree Devotion The Call to Abraham Genesis 12:1-7 Following God is not like following the GPS in our cars; we are not told every step before we start the journey. Instead, we are told to set forth not knowing how it will end. We do know that when we have gone where God has guided, and done what God has commanded, whatever else we find at the end of the journey, we will find God waiting for us. Like Abram, we can only respond in worship. Artist: Laura Burnett Newell Following God is not like following the GPS in our cars; we are not told every step before we start the journey. Instead, we are told to set forth not knowing how it will end. We do know that when we have gone where God has guided, and done what God has commanded, whatever else we find at the end of the journey, we will find God waiting for us. Like Abram, we can only respond in worship.
Laura Burnett Newell
Isaac and the Lamb
Day 5- Jesse Tree Devotion Isaac and the Lamb Genesis 22:1-14 In this iconic story we see the faithfulness of Abraham on full display as he obediently prepares to sacrifice his son Isaac - the promised child - on the makeshift altar at Moriah. His faith is an example to us all to trust that God will provide even in the most challenging of circumstances. In this passage, we see God providing a sacrificial lamb in place of Isaac, a foreshadowing of his offering of Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29) to atone for the sins of the world!
Day 6 - Jesse Tree Devotion Jacob's Ladder Genesis 28:10-17 Jacob dreamed of a heavenly stairway from heaven to earth, with angels going up and down upon it. Jacob, though he may have felt far from God, dreamed of a connection with God, a passageway between heaven and earth. He realized in that dream that God was a promise maker and a promise keeper - the Covenant was real - God was with him. In response, Jacob, the promise breaker, became Jacob the promise maker. Will you keep your covenant with the God who has promised you Himself?
Joseph's Coat of Many Colors
Day 7 - Jesse Tree Devotion Joseph's Coat of Many Colors Genesis 37:3-36 Although beautiful, families can also be complicated. Joseph's family is a picture of these complicated dynamics. How we navigate the complexity of family is not always with the grace of God. Take Joseph's robe of many colors that begins as a token of love, but inspires jealousy and becomes a symbol of grief and shame. In the human reaction of violence, God continues to be present in Joseph's story through his dreams. In the most wonderful of ways, the choices of our youth do not decide the way our story ends. God will be with us, and we will encounter new opportunities to change our course. May we do better this year as we come together with our complex families, may we be a people of grace. May the tokens of love be just that, may jealousy pass us and our loved ones by and may we choose better than our ancestors.
Rev. Lynn Smilie Nesbitt
Moses and the Ten Commandments
Day 8 - Jesse Tree Devotion Moses and the Ten CommandmentsExodus 20:1-20; 32:15-16
The Ten Commandments are not an outdated list of do's and don'ts cast down from the almighty on high. They were never intended to be merely a list of restrictions or a measure of our goodness. Instead, these were a sign that God had stepped down from heaven and was seeking to dwell among us. These commands are the loving action of God to help us live together as the people of God. They give us a way to experience God's grace more fully and a means to stay connected to God. The Ten Commandments offer us the true way to live faithfully for God. Which ones might we need to revisit today?
Lydia Roney Wright
Canaan, the Promised Land of Blessings
Day 9 - Jesse Tree Devotion Canaan, the Promised Land of Blessings Numbers 13:1-2; 17-25; 26-27 Moses sent twelve men to discover what the unknown promised land held for them. The men returned with a single cluster of grapes so large that two men had to carry it on a pole between them, in addition to figs and pomegranates. We find, again and again, when we go into territory where God sends us, God gives to us, in the words of the apostle Paul, "exceedingly, abundantly, beyond all we ask or think."
Laura Burnett Newell
Ruth and Boaz
Day 10 - Jesse Tree Devotion Ruth and Boaz Ruth 1:16; 2:5-18; 4:13-17 Is there anyone God can't use? Ruth (A Moabite) leaves her home and her family and goes with her mother-in-law Naomi to Israel. Her faithfulness is rewarded as Boaz becomes a guardian and protector, allowing her to glean wheat from the fields to provide for her family. She ultimately marries Boaz, and they have a son who would become the grandfather of King David. If God can use a foreigner like Ruth to be the great-grandmother of Israel's greatest king, what might he want to do with me and you?
Day 11 - Jesse Tree Devotion King David I Samuel 16:1; 13; 17:1-7; 38-50 The world is full of giants. But God is bigger. The world is full of danger. But God is our Shield. The world's anger is so loud. But God's peace reverberates eternally. The world will produce the mean and the cruel. But God creates that which is good. The world may send Goliath: a mean, cruel, angry, dangerous giant. But God has your back: "the Spirit of the Lord is upon you."
Josiah Finds the Law
Day 12 - Jesse Tree Devotion Josiah Finds the Law II Kings 23:1-3 In the scripture King Josiah invites all people, from the least to the greatest, to hear the covenant that had been made between God and all of God's children. This was the first time in a long time that they had remembered the covenant, as it had been lost to them. Their lives were full of other idols, but in this coming together they begin the work of reconciliation with the living God. The push and the pull of the world, works to distract us from our covenant with God, however, we have this opportunity to return to God. It is never too late and no matter where you have been or what you have done, God is always calling you back. In this season, as we read God's word together, let us embrace the Hope of Jesus that removes all barriers and joins us on our journey of reconciliation with others and with the Living God. May we gather in hope and joyfully celebrate the covenant of salvation.
Prophecy of Shoot from Stump of Jesse
Day 13 - Jesse Tree Devotion Prophecy of Shoot from Stump of Jesse Isaiah 11:1-5 The tradition of the Jesse Tree is rooted in these verses from Isaiah. Jesse was the father of David, and Jesus himself a descendent from David. The "branch" referenced here, the one to bring righteousness, equity, and hope, is Jesus! Jesus' family tree is full of people who by the world's standards were quite ordinary, but God would use them to bring His good news to the world. Let this be a reminder that all of us have our own gifts and graces matched with our own faults and shortcomings, yet God uses us anyway! God takes the ordinary and uses us to be extraordinary.
Anne Claire Langford
Prophecy of the Lion and the Lamb
Day 14 - Jesse Tree Devotion Prophecy of the Lion and the Lamb Isaiah 11:6-10 Our world longs for peace as the nightly news tells of war; our families long for peace amid quarreling and pain. The streets of Dothan long for peace as we hear, far too often, of another shooting, another death. Our God is a God of peace and promises a world where even predatory animals will do no harm and crawling babies are safe around venomous snakes. God promises a peace above and beyond any we can imagine.
Prophecy of the Prince of Peace
Day 15 - Jesse Tree Devotion Prophecy of the Prince of Peace Isaiah 9:6-7 Perhaps, one of the most well-known Christmas passages in all of Scripture, the prophet Isaiah gets a glimpse of Jesus, the Messiah, more than 700 years before his birth. The picture that he receives is of a child whose kingdom will be one of peace not war, a counselor not a dictator, a father not a tyrant, the Incarnation of God Almighty. Christmas reminds us every year of kingdom that is to come, the one that we are called to live into here and now; the kingdom of peace, joy, hope, and love. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!
Prophecy of the Gentle Shepherd
Day 16 - Jesse Tree Devotion Prophecy of the Gentle Shepherd Isaiah 40:11 We have a Shepherd. His name is Jesus, and he has taught us that we need nothing else. It is not just the radiant halos of the mountains, or the rainbow-hued spheres of the blue skies, in which God lives and moves and has His being. It is also in the deepest, darkest valley that we find our Shepherd God, protecting Christ, our Jesus. He holds us. He carries us. He leads us. He knows us. He does the hard work of overcoming the dangers of this world for us.
Prophecy of the Suffering Servant
Day 17 - Jesse Tree Devotion Prophecy of the Suffering Servant Isaiah 53 Confession, we have all fallen short of the glory of God. We have broken God's law, we have not heard the cry of the needy, we have not loved our neighbors, and have not lived into the hope of Jesus Christ. And yet, God sends His son, to bear the pain and suffering of all our iniquities. Our anticipation grows as we experience the relief as the weight of our sins is lifted from our shoulders to be carried by another. May the peace of Christ comfort you this season.
Prophecy of the New Covenant
Day 18 - Jesse Tree Devotion Prophecy of the New Covenant Jeremiah 31:31-34 Take a moment and let it sink in that the God of the universe, the Creator of light and life, the God whom we serve is able to be known by you and me! By the grace of God, we have been invited to know God personally. You can now walk, talk, listen, obey, and enter a relationship with God that is unlike any form before. God in Christ has made himself available to us by giving His spirit and turning our hearts towards Him. Today, take a moment to give thanks to God and grow to know Him more.
Prophecy of Bethlehem
Day 19 - Jesse Tree Devotion Prophecy of Bethlehem Micah 5:2-4 This plan of God to save God's people is ancient. God had been plotting all along to make everything right. Through the tiny town of Bethlehem, God will bring us a Savior. This Savior - Jesus - will tenderly tend the flock of God. What is this God who continually plots goodness plotting for your life?
Day 20 - Jesse Tree Devotion The Exile Daniel 3:19-30 You shall have no other gods before me! The Hebrew boys who were carried into exile in Babylon knew this command and they chose to keep it no matter what. Even the threat of being thrown into a blazing, hot furnace didn't stop them from refusing to worship the gods of Babylon. Can we say the same? Are we willing to face death to be found faithful to our God? After all, the promise of this Season is that God loves us and sent us a Savior who would die on our behalf and defeat death. There is nothing that we can go through in this life where God in Christ will not go with us. Do not fear! I will be with you! When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned (Isaiah 43:2)! Hallelujah!
The Return of the Land
Day 21 - Jesse Tree Devotion The Return of the Land Nehemiah 1:3; 2:17-18; 6:15-16 The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer (Psalm 18:2a). When the walls of Jerusalem were destroyed by the Babylonians and the people carried off into exile, they were sure that they would never see their beloved city again. But God had other plans and used Nehemiah to supervise the rebuilding project. There are times in life when it may seem that our strength has waned, and our sense of God's protection and power is replaced with discouragement and despair. This passage reminds us to look to the Lord and allow His joy to be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
Day 22 - Jesse Tree Devotion The Star Matthew 2:1-12 New light has been ushered into the world, as the shadows dance in the presence of the light, we are encouraged to continue forward in our journey. We shall not tarry as the presence of God is calling us forward. As we encounter Christ daily, we will soak it in and be transformed by God's faithfulness. The wisdom of God changes our course to go from here by a different road filled with the Holy Spirit. May the light of the Lord shine upon you.
The Light of the World
Day 23 - Jesse Tree Devotion The Light of the World Luke 1:26-38; 2:25-32 Could you imagine what it must have been like for Mary to be told she would be the mother of Jesus? It is hard to fathom; it is hard to understand. While we may never be asked to do something as dramatic and world changing as Mary, we are asked often to respond to God - to listen to His commands and obediently follow. This is difficult at times. But what gives us the courage and strength to step out on faith and respond, is to know, like Mary, that God is with us! Today, remember even in the darkest of places, Christ lights your path.
Angels Proclaim the Coming of Christ
Day 24 - Jesse Tree Devotion Angels Proclaim the Coming of Christ Luke 2:8-14 While no one else was paying attention, God sent the angels to tell ordinary shepherds that Jesus had been born. The sign they give - by which they will recognize the newborn Savior - is that he will be wearing bands of cloth, lying in a manger. What kind of sign is this? Every newborn of that day is swaddled in bands of cloth. This is a sign: he will look like you. He is a baby like any other baby. God had become human to live among you. God has become like us, that we may be brought back to God. No wonder they sang Alleluia!
Anne Claire Langford
The Birth of Jesus
Day 25 - Jesse Tree Devotion The Birth of Jesus Luke 2:1-7; 16-21 Merry Christmas! God is with us - Emmanuel! What made the shepherds run back into the fields rejoicing? What caused the Wise Men to fall on their face, bow down, and worship? It was this fact and this fact alone: God is not a distant, far off, uninvolved God. God is with us! The Creator and Sustainer of the universe is a relational God who stripped Himself of His glory and became like us in the form of a baby, who was all God and yet all human without sin. The message of Christmas is Emmanuel. The truth is: God was with you, God is with you, God will be with you!