The Jesse Tree…. Do You Have One?

Jesse Tree‘Tis the season for decorations! At this time of year, practically everyone decorates trees in their living rooms! We do have the long tradition of having a “Christmas Tree” in our homes. But how about putting another tree up as well? How about having an Advent Tree?

The Advent tree is also called the Jesse tree. It’s named that, because there are several references in the Bible to Jesus coming from the stem of Jesse, and growing out of its roots. Jesse was the father of David, the great king of Israel.

Having a Jesse Tree in your home is a great way to teach youngsters about Bible history. The Jesse tree reminds us of the genealogy of Christ, how as a human he is a descendant of David and Jesse, coming after them, and yet as God he came before anyone else, including David and Jesse.

Basically an Advent or Jesse Tree is just an evergreen branch or small tree—sometimes even a bare branch. During the season of Advent biblical symbols are gradually added to the tree, symbols that tell the story of God’s redemptive plan for the world and reveal the strong ties between the Old and New Testaments.

The idea for this “family tree” comes from Isaiah’s prophecy: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” —Isaiah 11:1

Long before Jesus’ birth, the chosen people already knew that he would come from David’s family. David was the greatest of Israel’s kings. And the people eagerly anticipated the coming of this second and greater David.

This emphasis on the lineage of the Messiah continued in the New Testament Church. The early Christians often referred to Jesus’ roots in their attempts to convince others that he was the Messiah. “Look,” they would say, “he was born of Jesse’s family, of the house of David—just as the prophets said. He was born in Bethlehem, just as they promised. So he must be the Messiah.”

The idea of the Jesse Tree is to put symbolic ornaments on it as the days of Advent tick by. The more common symbols used on the Jesse Tree are: an apple to symbolize Adam and Eve and the first sin. During Advent we remember that God sent Jesus to free us from our sins. The second symbol is an ark or a rainbow. When we see the rainbow or hear the story of the flood, we are reminded that God loved the world enough to give us a new start and that God keeps his promises. The third symbol is a tent. This refers to Abraham, and how God called him to actually begin His plan of salvation history. Other symbols include: Jacob and a Ladder, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Moses and the Ten Commandments, David and a Crown, and many more leading up to the birth of Jesus.

The Jesse Tree is a good way to make our time of Advent more meaningful, as we recall the characters and events in salvation history, and how everything in God’s plan leads up to His Son Jesus Christ. So, go ahead, put a second tree up in your living room.

Fr. Dave

 

NOTE: You can create your own set of symbols for your Jesse Tree by searching online. But here are a couple of links to get your creative synapses firing. Have fun!

http://healthy-family.org/free-jesse-tree-advent-patterns/

http://www.inlieuofpreschool.com/make-your-own-advent-jesse-tree-ornaments-in-the-microwave/

http://www.clubhousejr.com/crafts/the-jesse-tree.aspx

 

The Tree in Your Living Room

Charlie Brown Christmas TreeO Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, how steadfast are your branches! Your boughs are green in summer’s clime and through the snows of wintertime. O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, how steadfast are your branches!

The Christmas tree is one of the most popular and cherished Christmas customs. Each year 35-40 million live trees are purchased and decorated in the United States alone. But when, where, and how did this custom begin? What is the origin of the Christmas tree? What does it mean?

The Christmas tree comes to us from Germany. Martin Luther is credited with being inspired by the starry heavens one night, and expressing his feelings to his family by bringing a fir tree into his home, and attaching lighted candles to its branches. Fir meant fire, and fire is an ancient symbol for spirit. The tree also pointed toward the heavens.

Evergreens were thought to represent the ever-burning fire of life. The color green signified the life force through the year. Eventually decorative balls represented the planets, while the star that radiates from the top reminds us of Bethlehem. The entire tree and decorations teach us that the universe is witness to the Incarnation.

The lights represent Christ as being the “Light of the World.” Originally the lights used were candles. The candles were meant to symbolize Christ, specifically his self-giving love and gift of life to us. As the candle provides light and warmth it consumes its own substance, the wax. So, too, did Jesus give of his own substance—his life—so that we might find divine light and life.

However, there is some argument that the meaning of the Christmas tree dates back before Luther’s time, to the 12th century. Again in Germany, a fir tree was used in mystery plays as the so-called “paradise” tree. These dramas were held outside during the Advent and Christmas seasons and the fir tree symbolized the tree of life in the Garden of Eden.

The evergreen fir tree is a sign of hope throughout the winter season—hope that the rest of nature too will awaken to new life in the coming spring. The message of this symbolism was simple: through Jesus Christ we too have hope for everlasting life.

Indeed, Jesus Christ has become our tree of life: the paradise tree. The evergreen Christmas tree reminds us that even though our earthly season must come to an end, yet we will live through the grace of our Lord Jesus.

In our country: Franklin Pierce was the first president to introduce the Christmas tree to the White House in 1856 for a group of Washington Sunday-School children; the first lighted Christmas tree in public was in Boston in 1912; and the first national Christmas Tree was lighted in the year 1923 on the White House lawn by President Calvin Coolidge.

The Christmas tree has become a symbol of the spirit of Christmas in our country and many others, and of course, in our homes.

Fr. Dave

 

Importance of Attitude

 

thumbs-up

William James, the Harvard trained physician, noticed most of the people who came to consult him about medical-physical problems really had a psychological-attitudinal problem-something deep down inside of them that caused a physical manifestation.

So, James went into psychiatry, and in his book History of Psychology he wrote: “The greatest discovery in our generation is that human beings by changing the inner attitudes of their minds can change all the outer aspects of their lives.”

The American Academy of Psychosomatic medicine once suggested that 92% of ALL physical illness is psychologically induced. Isn’t that something? So, it seems to me, that having the proper attitude is very important to your overall health and well-being.

St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians that we are to “have in us the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Our Lord Jesus has an attitude of self-giving. In His life on earth, Jesus knew Who He was, but never flaunted it. He humbly used Who He was for the benefit of others—giving Himself totally for the life of the world.

We are to follow His example. And we follow His example because we know that it leads to the fullness of life.

Psychologists, teachers, coaches, motivation speakers, and authors all attest to the value of having a positive attitude.

Positive attitude helps to cope more easily with the daily affairs of life. It brings optimism into your life, and makes it easier to avoid worry and negative thinking. If you adopt it as a way of life, it will bring constructive changes into your life, and makes you happier, more pleasant, and even more successful. With a positive attitude you see the bright side of life, you become optimistic and expect the best to happen. It is certainly a state of mind that is well worth developing and strengthening.

You could develop a positive attitude by: choosing to be happy, choosing to stay optimistic, and finding reasons to smile more often: Read inspiring stories of people, associate with positive people, learn to speak only positive words, meditate on the Gospel, believe in the victory of Jesus over sin and death, have confidence that in Christ you have the strength to do all things (see Philippians 4:13).

Yes, your attitude is very important. Take on the attitude of Jesus Christ, and live positively.

Fr. Dave

How Do You See God?

Talents ParableA drunk guy is walking down the street. He see
s this nun dressed in her very traditional long habit and veil. The man runs up to her and knocks her over, then says, “You don’t feel so tough now, do you, Batman!?”

The point is: how you see someone will largely determine how you deal with that someone.

Jesus’ parable about the talents teaches us something very important: the way we see God is how we approach Him.

A “talent” refers to a large sum of money. In Jesus’ parable the master gives one servant five talents, two talents to another, and one talent to the third. The first two went off right away and made double for their master, while the third servant buried the talent, and simply gave the money back to the master.

The third servant’s action (or lack of action) was the result of how he viewed his master. He saw his master as a “harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed.” He was afraid.

His master wasn’t happy with him, and because he did not use his talent, it was taken away. And, the third servant was punished for not using it.

Let’s look at the differences between the two servants who served their master correctly and the one who did not:

The first two were determined to make a profit; the third was determined to not take a loss. The first two were willing to work hard and take risks; the third took no risks.

The first two received the gift; the third refused the gift.

The first two wanted to advance the master’s domain; the third had no interest in what mattered to the master.

The first two viewed the money as an opportunity; the third guy saw it as a problem.

The first two allowed the master’s gift to change their lives; the third refused to let the gift touch his life.

The first two saw a blessing; the third guy saw a burden.

And, in the final analysis, the first two knew the master; the third servant had no clue.

How do you see God? Is He a harsh judge? Is He a task-master? Well, that’s going to affect the way you approach Him. Jesus reveals His Father to us as our Father—a loving Father who wants only the best for His children.

The Lord has given each of us “talents” as well. We are to develop them and use them for the glory of God our Father. We will gladly do so if we see God rightly.

Fr. Dave

Shhh! God’s Talking to Me

Child and Shhh!There is a story of a king who visits a spiritual master. The busy king, had the responsibilities of running the kingdom and the well-being of all his subjects, still he desired to be united with God. The king asks the spiritual master to give him the secret of being united with God in a simple, practical way. The spiritual master said: “I will give you the secret in one word.” The king impatiently said: “Give me that word!’ The spiritual master said: “Silence.” The king asked: “And how could I get silence?” The spiritual master said: “Contemplation”. The king asked: “What is contemplation?” The spiritual master said: “Silence.”

All the great spiritual mystics and saints throughout the ages agree upon one thing, that is: any way to God HAS TO BE a way through SILENCE. If you want to come into COMMUNION with God you MUST pass through silence.

When Elijah went up the mountain and sought God he thought God would be in the strong and rock crushing wind, or in the mighty earthquake, or in the ferocious fire. The Lord did come to Elijah in neither of those ways. The Lord God spoke to Elijah in a tiny whispering sound.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus went off by himself on a regular basis to be alone in prayer. That’s when He could communicate one-on-one with His Father.

Contemplative prayer is a prayer of silence. Silence means “going beyond words and thoughts.” Contemplative prayer, then, is “going beyond words and thoughts” to experiencing the presence of God. It is “sitting with God.” And, in “sitting” words are unnecessary. Still, in “sitting”, you may hear God speak to your heart.

Picture an elderly couple, who are married over fifty years, sitting contently in silence on the front porch of their home. No words are exchanged, but much communication is going on. Basking in each other’s presence speaks volumes! We are to have such a loving relationship with our God.

Indeed, our Catholic Catechism says this: “Prayer is the living relationship of the children of God with their Father.” CCC #2565

St. Therese of Lisieux said this: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look toward heaven.”

In our prayer life, I’m sure all of us have said a multitude of words to God – almost as if we have to inform the Almighty how to run the world, or at least our lives. Yet, when you think of it, who has more profound things to say in our communication with God? Us to God? Or, God to us?

If you want to hear God’s voice enter into silence.

Fr. Dave