Monday, December 24, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of John the Baptist

Elizabeth was Mary's relative and a descendant of Aaron, but like Sarah she had grown old without having any children. Her husband Zachariah was a priest, and one day as he was burning incense in the temple, an angel appeared to him and told him that he and Elizabeth would have a child. Their son was John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus, and who baptized Jesus at the start of his ministry:  
     "Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized [by John] and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove."

Luke 1:5-24, 3:21-22

Potential ornaments for the Jesse Tree: a bee (because John ate wild honey), a dove (for the Holy Spirit)

This is the last posting for the Jesse Tree. Tomorrow begins a new chapter in salvation history: the birth of Jesus, the Holy Child who became our Savior. The long wait is over; Christmas is here. May the blessings of this holy season bring peace to your hearts and your homes. 

For those wanting to extend the Christmas season, visit and look at the left hand column for crafts, games, foods, music, and a family meal to celebrate Epiphany: the coming of the Wise Men who followed a star to find the Holy Child.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of Joseph and the Angel

Joseph, a carpenter, a good and righteous man, was greatly troubled when he learned that Mary was pregnant, but an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." And so Joseph married Mary.

Matthew 1:18-25

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a saw

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of the Annunciation

Many years after the people of Israel had returned from Babylonian captivity to their own land, Rome claimed Israel as part of its Empire. It was during this time of Roman occupation that God sent the angel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth in Galilee "to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary." The angel told Mary that she had been chosen by God to bear a child, "and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High...the Son of God." Mary answered the angel by saying, "Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."


Potential ornaments for Jesse Tree: an angel, a lily (symbol for Mary)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of Daniel in the Lion's Den

During the time of exile in Babylon, the Israelite Daniel served under King Darius.  When the king signed a law that any  person who prayed to anyone, divine or human, besides the king himself should be "thrown into a den of lions," Daniel continued to pray to God.  He was caught by men who were jealous of him and brought before the Babylonian king.  Now King Darius was distressed because he liked and respected Daniel, but the jealous men reminded him that no law the king had made could be changed, so Daniel was thrown into the lions' den.  The king spent the night fasting, and in the morning "the king got up and hurried to the den of lions."  Daniel was alive!  He said to King Darius, "My God sent an angel and shut the lions' mouths so that they would not hurt me."  The king freed Daniel and threw his accusers to the lions instead.  Then he wrote to all his people, advising them to "tremble and fear before the God of Daniel:  For this is the living God, enduring forever."

Daniel 6

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a lion

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of God's Promise to the People in Exile

During the time of exile, when the people of Israel had been captured in war and taken to Babylon, the Lord spoke to them through the prophet Jeremiah.  Even though it was their disobedience that had led to their captivity, God grieved over the people of Israel and promised a new covenant, a new beginning:   "It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt--a covenant that they broke, though I was their companion, says the Lord.  But this is the covenant  that I will make with the house of Israel after these days,             says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

Jeremiah 31:33-34

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a heart

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of Elijah and the Ravens

Many years after David and Solomon reigned, Ahab became king of Israel.  He was an evil king: "Ahab did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than had all the kings of Israel who were before him."  Ahab even let his wife Jezebel talk him into serving false gods.  During this time, the Lord spoke through the prophet Elijah, telling Ahab that because of his wickedness "there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word."  The land became dry and parched, but God sent Elijah to live in the wilderness east of the Jordan River, and God sent ravens to bring food to Elijah every morning and every evening.  The drought lasted three years, and in all that time, God continued to look after Elijah.

1 Kings 17:1-7

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a raven 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of Solomon's Temple

David ruled Israel for many years.  His son Solomon, who was known to be a very wise man, became king after David's death.  "God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore."  While Solomon was king , he began to build an enormous temple to God.  It was filled with beautiful carvings, and even the floors were overlaid with gold.  When it was finished, he dedicated it to the Lord, and the Lord said to Solomon: "I have consecrated this house that you have built," and God promised to dwell there for as long as the Israelites kept the commandments.

1 Kings 6:1-38

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a temple

Monday, December 17, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of David's Annointing

The boy Samuel grew up to be a great prophet.  At this time Saul was king over Israel, but Saul did not obey what God commanded.  So God spoke to Samuel: "How long will you grieve over Saul?  I have rejected him from being king over Israel.  Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided myself a king among his sons."  (Jesse, remember, was the grandson of Ruth and Boaz. He's also the one who gives the Jesse Tree its name.)  So Samuel went to Jesse's house in Bethlehem.  God said to Samuel, "The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."  Instead of choosing any of the older, stronger sons, God chose the youngest boy, David, saying to Samuel, "'Rise and anoint him; for this is the one who will be the next king.'  Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward."

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Potential ornaments for the Jesse Tree: a horn of oil, a crown

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of God's Voice in the Night

Samuel was a young boy who served God in the temple under the direction of Eli, an aging priest.  One night Samuel heard a voice call him by name, "Samuel!  Samuel!" and he said, "Here I am!" and rushed to see what Eli wanted.  But Eli had not called him.  This happened three times.  "Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy," so he told him next time to answer, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."  And the next time Samuel heard his name called in the night, he answered to God, and was given a vision of the future.

1 Samuel 3:1-18

Potential ornaments for the Jesse Tree: an oil lamp, a candle

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of Ruth

Long after the Israelites had settled in the land God gave them, another famine struck.  An Israelite woman named Naomi moved with her husband and two sons to the land of Moab to find food.  Her sons married Moabite women.  Then Naomi's husband and both sons died, so she prepared to send her daughters-in-law back to their own families and to go back to the land of Israel alone.  One of her daughters-in-law, Ruth, insisted on going with her, however.  She said, "Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God."  So Ruth went with Naomi into the land of Israel, and there she met a relative of Naomi, named Boaz, as she was gathering grain in his fields.  Ruth and Boaz were married, and their firstborn son was grandfather to the great king David.

The Book of Ruth

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a stalk of grain, ear of corn

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of Rahab's Willingness to Help

The Israelites wandered forty years in the desert in search of the land God had promised them.   During all this time, God looked after them, feeding them with manna from heaven.  Moses died just before the Israelites finally entered the Promised Land, and Joshua became the new leader of the people.  Joshua sent two men to look over the city of Jericho within the Promised Land.  The king of Jericho found out about the coming of the Israelites and planned to have them killed, but  Rahab, who was a prostitute in Jericho, hid the two Israelites in her home.  She even helped them escape.   Having heard all that God had done for the Israelites when they came out of Egypt,  she said, "The Lord your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below."  The Israelites promised that if she would tie a crimson cord in her window, she and her family would be spared when they took over Jericho.  And that's what happened.  When the walls of Jericho tumbled down and the Israelites took over the city, "Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, Joshua spared.  Her family has lived in Israel ever since.  For she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho."

Joshua 2:1-21 and 6:22-25

Potential ornaments for the Jesse Tree: a red ribbon, yarn, or string

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of Aaron's Blessing

After the Israelites had escaped from slavery and were safe from their pursuers, the Lord chose Aaron and his descendents to serve as priests.  God said to Aaron, "I will dwell among the Israelites, and I will be their God.  And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them; I am the Lord their God."  After Aaron had made offerings to God, he "lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them...and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people."

Exodus 29 and Leviticus 9:22-24

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a hand (for blessing)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of the Red Sea, and Miriam's Song

When the fleeing Israelites reached the Red Sea, "Moses stretched out his hand over the sea.  The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land....  The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left."  In the morning, the sea closed over the pursuing army and drowned them, and the Israelites were safe on the other side.  "Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.  And Miriam sang to them:
˜Sing to the Lord for the glorious triuimph;
            horse and rider have been thrown into the sea."

Exodus 14:21-15:21

Potential ornaments for the Jesse Tree: a tambourine or other musical instrument (we have a banjo), a dancer

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of the Exodus

God had compassion on the suffering of the enslaved Israelites, and so God chose Moses to free the people from slavery.  Terrible plagues ravaged Egypt, and in the midst of them, Moses led the Israelites out of the land of bondage.  "The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night."  Then, even though Pharoah had said that the Israelites could go, he changed his mind and sent an army to capture them and bring them back to slavery.  The pillar of cloud and fire moved behind the Israelites to protect them from the pursuing army.

Exodus 3-14

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a pillar of fire

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jesse Tree: A Story of Civil Disobedience: Puah and Shiphrah

Because of a severe famine, all of Joseph's eleven brothers and their families and even his old father Jacob ended up moving to Egypt where there was still food, so the family was finally reunited.  As years went by, "the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them."  After many, many years, a new king of Egypt decided that there were too many of these outsiders and he made the Israelites work as slaves.   He even told Puah and Shiphrah, two Hebrew midwives, to kill all the boy babies born to the Israelites.  "But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live."  And so the number of Israelites in Egypt continued to grow.

Exodus 1:1-21

Potential ornaments for the Jesse Tree: two women, a raised fist

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of Joseph's Coat and His Brothers' Jealousy

Jacob, who dreamed of the ladder, had twelve sons; he loved his son Joseph in a special way "because he was the son of his old age," so he had a long robe made for him.  Joseph's brothers were jealous of  his robe, and when Joseph began telling them about his own dreams of glory, "They hated him even more because of his dreams and his words."  One day while all the brothers were tending their father's flock of sheep, the older brothers turned against Joseph and sold him to a caravan headed to Egypt, dipped his robe in goat's blood, and told their father that Joseph had been killed by wild animals.  (Actually, Joseph was later sold to an officer of Pharoah in Egypt, where "he became a successful man." Long years later, the story had a happy ending. Jacob even got to see Joseph again and to know that his son was still alive.)

Genesis 37:1-36

Potential ornament to make for the Jesse Tree: a many-colored robe

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of Jacob's Ladder

When Isaac grew up, he married Rebekah; they had twin sons named Esau and Jacob.  One night as Jacob was traveling to visit his uncle Laban, he slept outside under the stars, using a stone for a pillow.  That night "he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it."  Then God spoke to Jacob in the dream and blessed him: "Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go."  In the morning Jacob used the stone that had been his pillow to mark the place as holy ground.

Genesis 28:10-22

Potential ornament to make for the Jesse Tree: a ladder

Friday, December 7, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of Abraham and Isaac

When Isaac was still a boy, God again tested Abraham's faith: "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on the mountaains that I shall show you."  Once again, Abraham obeyed God.  Giving Isaac the kindling to carry, he took him to the mountain to sacrifice him to God.  He built an altar, laid the kindling on it, then placed Isaac on top.  When God saw that Abraham would obey even in this, God sent an angel to stop him.  "Do not lay your hand on the boy," the angel said.  Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in a thicket, and he offered it instead of Isaac as a burnt offering to God.

Genesis 22:1-14

Potential ornaments to make for the Jesse Tree: a bundle of sticks, a ram

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of Sarah's Laughter

Sarah knew of God's promise to her and to Abraham that they would be parents to a new nation, but she grew to be an old woman, ninety-nine years old, and she still didn't have any children.  One day, Abraham invited three strangers to dinner; hospitality was very important in the land where Abraham and Sarah pitched their tent because there weren't any restaurants to feed travelers.  Sarah began immediately to bake fresh bread for these visitors, who were actually angels of the Lord.  As she was working, she overheard one of the strangers say to Abraham, "I shall visit you again next year, and your wife will then have a son."  Sarah laughed out loud when she heard that, because she was too old to have children, but the stranger assured them it was true.  And sure enough, within the year Sarah gave birth to a son.  She and Abraham named him Isaac, which in Hebrew means "laughter."  

Genesis 18:1-15 and 21:1-7

Potential ornaments to make for the Jesse Tree: a loaf of bread, an angel

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of the Calling of Abraham

Abraham grew up among people who worshiped other gods.  But the Lord called to Abraham and said, "Leave your country and your kindred and your father's house for a land that I will show you.  I will make you a great nation; I will bless you..."  Abraham listened to God.   As hard as it was to leave his parents' home, he packed up his tent and his belongings and went where God led him.  Abraham spent much of his long life wondering how he could be the promised father of a great nation because he and his wife Sarah didn't have any children, but he kept on trusting in God's promise that his descendents would be as many as the stars in heaven.

Genesis 12:1-4a and 1:1-16-1

Potential ornaments to make for the Jesse Tree: a tent, stars

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of Noah's Ark

Genesis also tells the story of Noah and the flood.  Noah was a good man, but most people at the time he lived were behaving very badly indeed. God was grieved at the violent ways people treated each other, and so God told Noah to build an ark -- a kind of ship -- and to take his family, along with two of every kind of animal, into the ark.  Then God made it rain for 40 days and 40 nights, and the earth was flooded with water. Only Noah's family and the animals he brought on board survived. Then the rain stopped, the sun shone, and the earth dried out, and Noah's family and all the animals went out of the ark onto dry land. God blessed them, and to symbolize the promise never to flood the whole earth again, God said, "I set my rainbow in the clouds and it shall be a sign of the Covenant between me and the earth."

Genesis 6:5-9-17

Potential ornaments to make for the Jesse Tree: a rainbow, a boat, animals of any kind (we made giraffes)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of Adam and Eve

Genesis also tells the story of Adam and Eve and the beautiful Garden of Eden where they lived.  God's own breath had given life to Adam and Eve.  Fruit trees in the garden provided food, and they lived without having to work.  They were very happy.  But a sneaky serpent tempted them to disobey God.  One tree grew fruit God had forbidden them to eat, but the serpent told them it was the most delicious fruit in the garden, and besides, if they ate it they would gain knowledge of good and evil, and be just like God.  So they ate the fruit.  They knew right away that they had done a very bad thing--and so did God.  Because of their disobedience, God made them leave the Garden of Eden.  

Genesis 2:4-3:24

Potential ornaments to make for the Jesse Tree: an apple, a snake

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Jesse Tree: The Story of Creation

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The book of Genesis tells how God created everything: light and darkness, water and dry land, plants and animals, and human beings, male and female, in God's own image. And when God saw all of creation, "behold, it was very good." This story  reminds us that the whole universe is God's creation, and that our life is a loving gift from God, and that all of it is very, very good.

Genesis 1:1-2:3

Potential ornament to make for the Jesse Tree: the Earth

Saturday, December 1, 2012

First Evening with the Jesse Tree

Here is a brief retelling of the story from Scripture which gives the Jesse Tree its name. (In Star of Wonder, the young shepherd is named Jesse, just like the keeper of sheep from ancient times, although they are not related.) This is what you will read when you first plant your Jesse Tree and light the candle:

This is a story of Jesus' family tree. Long ago, the prophet Isaiah told the ancient Hebrew people that a new branch would grow from an old tree stump. Isaiah said that this new branch, this new life, would come from the family of Jesse, a farmer and keeper of sheep who lived near Bethlehem. David, Israel's most famous king, was Jesse's youngest son, and Jesus was born hundreds of years later into David's family of descendants. Isaiah wrote:
          A shoot will spring from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.