Eric Sammons has been practicing The Jesse Tree devotion every year since he and his wife got married in 1995. He is an author, father of 7, and Evangelical turned Catholic evangelist.
“It’s really the family tree of Jesus. What you do is, each day you have an ornament with a symbol. So, for example, you might have a ladder representing Jacob, you know—Jacob’s ladder. So each day has a symbol and a person from the Old Testament who is from the family tree of Jesus that we look at and we say, what about this helps us prepare for the coming of Christ? How does this person help prepare the world for Christ? And it gets its name from the passages in Isaiah where it says, ‘there shall come forth a shoot from the root of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of its roots.’ Which, in Isaiah’s time, meant David, the son of Jesse. But of course we, as Christians, see that the true root of Jesse that comes forth is Jesus Christ.”
This is a great, simple devotion for families to do during the Season of Advent. “It takes 5 to 10 minutes a day at most. You get an ornament for the day, you put it on your little tree … and we have a bible verse related to that person or that event that we’re talking about and some reflection questions about it,” says Sammons.
The Jesse Tree is great for family members of all ages. “The reflection questions can be anything for young children, teens or older people. And a prayer maybe from the liturgy or a saint, and if you want to, you can always dig deeper. In our book, we have references to the Catechism that refer to whoever the person is of the day. And so it really can be a very simple devotion for young children, it can get more deep for teens and adults.”
Sammons has found this devotion to be both fun and educational for his 7 children, ages 2 to 20. “The little ones love taking turns who puts the ornaments on the tree – they love it when it’s their turn,” says Sammons. “The older ones can really get into it as well because they can dig a little deeper and understand the scripture verse more in depth.” The Jesse Tree has helped to make the Old Testament more accessible and understandable to his kids. Then their understanding of the Old Testament has in turn helped them to understand the Gospels.
How does your family celebrate the Season of Advent? If your family is looking for a way to grow in knowledge of our Faith and prepare for Our Lord’s birth, try The Jesse Tree!