A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
— Isaiah 11:1
Leading up to Christmas, Mariner’s Bethel United Methodist Church will be giving the public a unique opportunity to celebrate what the season is truly about — through teachings related to the advent season: the Jesse Tree.
According to Loyola Press, the Jesse Tree “helps us connect the custom of decorating Christmas trees to the events leading to Jesus’ birth... Jesse was the father of King David. We adorn a Jesse Tree with illustrated ornaments that represent the people, prophesies and events leading up to the birth of Jesus. The ornaments of the Jesse tree tell the story of God in the Old Testament, connecting the Advent season with the faithfulness of God across four thousand years of history.”
“It’s basically a lost tradition of the liturgy in Christendom,” said Margie Biasotto, who will be teaching the classes at Mariner’s.
Teachings will be held every Wednesday, from Nov. 28 through Dec. 19. Daytime classes for adults only will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. Evening classes will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. A children’s class will be offered during the evenings, with crafts, songs and Bible stories for children 5 or older. The nursery will be available for little ones 4 or younger. No children’s classes or nursery will be offered during daytime sessions.
“We all have the little [advent] calendars or little wreaths,” said Biasotto. “Each day the priest or the pastor would be putting ornaments on the tree to represent part of Christ and the countdown… The first globe ornament represents creation. The next would be a tree or apple. We’re going to teach on what each of these Biblical ornaments represent and how they point to the Christ child.
“It is an opportunity to figure out why this used to be so valuable and important to the church. The symbolism is so moving and so meaningful. It’s truly fascinating.”
Each individual or family will be given their own devotional from which to follow along, read a verse a day and learn about the ornaments.
“So they can be decorating their own Jesse tree or their own family tree however they want to do it, but to really bring the Christ back to Christmas... Each day they would be looking at the prophecies that used to excite the people of Israel in anticipation of their Messiah,” she explained. “There will be some historical context, but mostly we’re going to look at each historical character and how they directly pointed to the Christ child.”
Biasotto said the kids will learn the same stories as the adults, though they will be told in an age-appropriate way. The kids will also get to make their own ornaments.
“We’re going to try to start every evening with the kids decorating the tree…. And they’ll sing.”
The program will run for four weeks, and Biasotto said she hopes people will take the time to attend and learn about the meaning behind the season.
“It is open to everyone — anyone,” she said, “anybody that’s trying to put the Christ back into Christmas; anyone who is feeling weary and overwhelmed, that’s busy and truly needs to find that place of rest. This simplifies it, because it’s not about getting stressed to impress but to bless.
“Hopefully, this will simplify… to focus specifically on what we’re celebrating, who we’re celebrating, and why we’re celebrating.”
Pre-registration is preferred, to ensure enough materials for those who attend are available; however, it’s not required. Those who would like more information or to register may call Mariner’s Bethel at (302) 539-9510 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Maria Counts