Monday, December 23, 2013
MONDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2013
"A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." - Isaiah 11:1
Traditions fall into several categories: inherited traditions -- handed down in families, churches, societies, and cultures; chosen traditions -- not the ones we've observed all our lives but the ones we encounter and embrace; and, of course, created traditions -- the ones we design and make our own. Some traditions are so cherished we would never think of abandoning them. Sometimes, however, we observe traditions for a period of time and then let them go. Such was the case for our family with the Jesse tree.
A Jesse tree is a way of telling the story of redemption beginning with Adam and Eve and moving through the Old Testament into the New, a sort of theological genealogy. (Jesse was Jesus' great-great-great-etc-grandfather.) Each year Wyc would find bare branches in the yard and put together our "tree." Every night in Advent we'd read a Bible story, Emma would find the ornament that represented Moses, Ruth, the Wise Men, or whoever the person of the night happened to be and then hang it on one of the branches. We had a lot of fun designing the ornaments -- some we made from scratch, some were converted pieces of jewelry, others actual ornaments we already possessed. It was also fun seeing the tree become more colorful and take on "life" as the story unfolded over the weeks leading up to Christmas.
The Christmas story began long before that night in Bethlehem. It began in the heart of God at the dawn of time. And while the life of Jesus is the penultimate moment in the story, it is not the whole story. The Jesse tree is a way of reminding us that God has always been about the business of redemption, working in the midst of human failure and extending the grace of second chances. The redemption story is ongoing as God continues to work in our lives even today.
Traditions are meant to remind us in meaningful ways who we are and what is important to us. We should never feel trapped by them or compelled to observe them for traditions' sake alone. We used the Jesse tree to tell the story for several Advent seasons. And then came the year that the box of ornaments wasn't pulled out and the branches for the tree weren't gathered. And after some discussion, it was okay to let the tradition go. Maybe one day we'll pull the box of ornaments out again. But even if that never happens, I thank God for the years we told the story of redemption with the Jesse tree.
- Gaye Rountree