Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Jesse Tree

Every Christmas our church sets up a Jesse Tree during advent season. In his article about The Jesse Tree and its' origin Dennis Bratcher talks about how Christians have tried to include the tree symbol in churches these days.
While nearly everyone has a Christmas tree, there has been reluctance in some circles to incorporate Christmas trees into the church sanctuary, arising from suspicions about the pagan origin of the symbol. However, since the Christmas tree has become such a part of Christmas celebration around the world, it seems more important to give it some clearly Christian meaning.
(quoted from Dennis Bratcher)
Bratcher also talks about Jesse Trees as a way to keep time like an advents calendar. People use the trees to hang ornaments and tell Christian stories. Our church has had a Jesse Tree for many years. But it's completely different from the ideas described on the Christian website I found.

Our youth director collects the names of children in our community who are in need. The Jesse Tree is decorated with pretty gift hangtags with the name, age, and the item a child wishes for for Christmas.
Our children are often surprised at what these children ask for. What kid would ask for clothes for Christmas? Blue Jeans or a sweatshirt? We are not rich, yet richer than most that we do not worry about having basic clothing items...
Each year our children get to pick out a boy and girl to buy a gift for. Then we go shopping for the gifts together as a family. This year our daughter picked a little girl named Michaela whose tag said: 5 years old needs some shoes size 13. I have never seen my daughter struggle this much with the task of buying a gift for the Jesse Tree. I guess it was harder this year because she wanted a pair of new boots for herself so badly. Since her old ones from last year still fit her we had told her "No". The idea that her parents were spending $25 on a strange child was hard to grasp. She kind of left the store sulking.

It's hard as a parent not to cave in and buy my kid some boots too. But this was not a trip about buying stuff for ourselves. It was about giving to other people who have so much less than we do. Once we arrived home and my daughter started wrapping the gift, she got more and more excited about giving this gift to the little girl. By the time we took it to church to place it under the tree she was all smiles and happy as a lark!

I think it's such an important lesson to teach kids: Often there is more Joy in Giving than Receiving! Merry Christmas, little Micheala!


Anonymous said...

Jeremiah 10:2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
It also says mentions decorating trees with idols, idols depicting heavenly figures is a sin. Christmas and Easter were originally celebrations of the pagan sun gods (Saturn and Ishtar, wife of Baal)God warns not to be tempted to worship them, they are abominations. Also in the book of Exodus it says men will face east to worship the sun and turn their backs on God in the house of the Lord.

Jeanne said...

Kudos to you for doing the right thing. I'm sure your daughter will grow to be a generous adult because of the decisions you make as a family. And Michaela will likely grow to be a generous adult as well, because someone she didn't know gave her shoes when she needed them. Your church's Jesse tree tradition sounds wonderful.

germandolls said...

Interesting, Robin. I wasn't aware of that passage...
Hey, Jeanne. I hope you are right! It's such a wonderful program.