God Is Calling—Leader's Guide
by Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski - Illustrations by Steve Erspamer, S.M.

(pp. 100-102)

Explanation of the Jesse Tree Tradition

Say in your own words:

“We are going to decorate a very special tree. We are going to make ornaments for a Jesse Tree. This Advent activity is like a family tree, a way for us to remember Jesus’ ancestors. We will talk about people who lived long before Jesus was born and some people who were born only a short time before him. The ornaments we make will be reminders of these men and women. They are important not only to Jesus but also to us, because they are our ancestors, too. They are the mothers and fathers of our faith.

“The tree is named after a man called Jesse, who lived a thousand years before Jesus. He was Jesus’ many-greats-grandfather. This is what the prophet Isaiah had to say about Jesse: ‘A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,/and a branch shall grow out of his roots’ [Isaiah 11:1]. Later Isaiah tells us that the Holy One will come from Jesse and his family. He will be a person of peace and justice. He will be wise and understanding and strong—strong enough to defeat all that is evil. We will learn more about Jesse when we hear about Jesus’ other relatives. But first we will make ornaments to hang on our Jesse Tree.

“I have gathered all sorts of materials for you to work with. Each family will receive the name of one of Jesus’ ancestors. After you read about the person, try to decide on a symbol that could represent them. If you have trouble figuring something out, the words in bold print will give you an idea of some traditional symbols. Be as creative as you like. If possible, try to make your ornament three-dimensional. Do not forget to put a string on it so that we can hang it on our tree later.”

Point out where the supplies are located and tell them they will have about thirty minutes to read about the person and make an ornament.

Allow enough time for families to work together. Walk around to all the groups to make sure they understood your instructions and to see if they need any additional supplies.

‘Ornament Stories’

Ask each family to stand when you call their Jesse Tree figure’s name. Ask them to read what they read about their person; encourage them to add anything else they may know. Ask them to hold up their ornament and explain how it represents the person whose name they chose. If more than one family has the same name, ask them to take turns responding. Make sure they both explain their ornaments. Continue until everyone has had a chance.

Here are the names that are to make up your Jesse Tree: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Noah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Jesse, David, Solomon, Isaiah and Micah, Jonah, Joseph, Mary.

Closing Prayer

Ask people to gather around the tree. Make sure each group has a hook with which to hang its ornament. Tell them you will start with a song, then a reading from the Gospel of John and a litany of Jesus’ ancestors. Every time they hear the words, “and we wait, too,” in the litany, they respond, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!” When they hear the name of their person they are to hang their ornament on the tree. (You might want to stand next to the folks who have Adam and Eve so that you can give them a nudge if they need one.) Finally, let them know that you will conclude the service by saying together the prayer Jesus gave us, the Our Father.

Opening Song: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” or any other appropriate Advent song.

Reading: John 1:1-5.

Jesse Tree Litany

“God’s own breath gave life to our first ancestors, and God’s own breath fills us. We were loved into being, just as they were. We are called and chosen, just as they were. For thousands of years there has been a people who have been in covenant with God, and now we are those people. It is our covenant. We trust God to be with us always, and we promise God to be faithful. We wait, as our ancestors in faith waited, for the coming of the Lord. Together let us remember all of those people who went before us, witnessing to the one true God—a people who knew how to wait.”

Respond, “Come, Lord Jesus,” after each sentence.

“Adam and Eve waited outside the gates of Paradise, and we wait, too. Come, Lord Jesus.

“Noah waited and waited for the rains to stop, and we wait, too.

“Abraham and Sarah waited and waited for their promised baby, and we wait, too.

“Jacob waited seven long years for his promised bride, and we wait, too.

“Joseph waited and waited in a country far from home, and we wait, too.

“Moses waited for forty years in the desert, and we wait, too.

“Ruth waited faithfully at the side of her mother-in-law, and we wait, too.

“Jesse waited for one of his sons to be chosen, and we wait, too.

“David waited for just the right time to fling the stone, and we wait, too.

“Solomon waited and waited for the temple to be built, and we wait, too.

“Isaiah and Micah waited and waited for people to listen, and we wait, too.

“Jonah waited three days in the belly of a whale, and we wait, too.

“Joseph waited to find a comfortable place for Mary, and we wait, too.

“Mary waited nine long months for the birth of her baby, and we wait, too.”

Closing Prayer: The Our Father

 

(pp. 107-117)

The Jesse Tree

Reproduce the materials below and cut the paragraphs apart to hand out as references. Let people know that the words in bold type are the traditional symbols for a person. They may choose this symbol or decide on one of their own.

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Adam and Eve are the names given to the first man and woman. This is how they came to be: God created the whole universe. God made the sun and moon, the earth and everything on it—all the plants and flowers, all the animals and birds and fish. God also created people. People were God’s special creation because God’s own breath gave them life. Adam and Eve were very happy living in the paradise God had created. They were very happy, that is, until they made a big mistake. They disobeyed God. They ate the fruit from the one and only tree that God had specifically asked them to avoid. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, they could no longer live in paradise. They had to leave. Now they had to work hard. Now they would get sick. Life was much more difficult because they chose not to listen to God.

Copyright ©1998, Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski. Reproduced with permission.

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Abraham and Sarah lived in a time when people worshiped many gods. But Abraham and Sarah chose to worship only the one true God. They left their home and traveled thousands of miles because God asked them to do so. They rode on camels and they lived in tents all their lives. God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have many, many descendants. (A descendant is a child or grandchild or great-great-great-grandchild.) God made a special covenant with Abraham and Sarah: “I will always take care of you and be faithful to you. And you must always believe and be faithful only to me, the one true God.” Abraham and Sarah had no children. The one thing they wanted most of all was a child of their own, but they were very old. They did not know how they could possibly have any descendants since they

did not have even one child. They forgot that nothing is impossible for God. Sure enough, God was true to the covenant. God took care of them. Even though Sarah was very, very old, she gave birth to a son. They named him Isaac. God kept the covenant. God took good care of Abraham and Sarah.

Copyright ©1998, Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski. Reproduced with permission.

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Noah was a very special man. He lived a good life when everyone around him was very wicked. This is the story of Noah and the ark that he built, the story of a great flood. The flood happened because wherever God looked on the earth wicked people were doing evil things. God decided to start over. God told Noah to build a huge ark, a boat large enough to carry his whole family plus two of every animal on earth. Noah followed God’s instructions. He built the ark and gathered the animals and his family on board. Then it started to rain. It rained for forty days straight. For one hundred and fifty days the water got higher and higher. Finally, Noah noticed that the water was starting to go down. Noah waited another forty days and then he sent out a bird to find out if there was dry land around. The bird flew away but came back in a little while. There was no land nearby. Noah sent out a second bird, a dove. This time the bird came back with an olive branch in its beak. The olive branch meant that they were close to dry land. They were saved. God made another covenant with Noah. God promised that the earth would never be destroyed again by a great flood. God put a rainbow in the sky. The rainbow was a sign of the covenant between God and all living creatures.

Copyright ©1998, Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski. Reproduced with permission.

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Jacob was the son of Isaac and Rebekah, grandson to Abraham and Sarah. His father wanted him to marry a woman from among his kinspeople. On Jacob’s way to their land he had a dream. He saw a ladder going up into the heavens and messengers going up and down on it. In the dream, he also saw God standing next to him. God made a covenant with Jacob—the same covenant that God had made with Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham. God said, “I will give you many children. They will have a land of their own.” When Jacob got to the place of his kinspeople, he stopped for a drink of water. At the well he met Rachel, a woman of his father’s family. This, he decided, was the woman he wanted to marry. Rachel’s father told him that if he worked for seven years he could marry his beautiful daughter. Jacob agreed, but after the seven years Jacob was tricked into marrying another daughter, Leah. Jacob still wanted to marry Rachel, but he had to agree to work another seven years for his father-in-law. Now Jacob had two wives. (In those days men were allowed to have more than one wife.) Leah and Rachel gave Jacob twelve sons. Jacob’s two favorite sons were Joseph and Benjamin, the two sons of Rachel.

Copyright ©1998, Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski. Reproduced with permission.

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Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son. His father loved him so much that he gave him a special coat of many colors. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him. They sold Joseph to some passing merchants and told their father that the boy had been killed by a wild animal. Joseph ended up in Egypt. When he was able to help the pharaoh (the king), the pharaoh freed Joseph. Joseph convinced the pharaoh to store up enough food to feed the whole country for seven years. The pharaoh made him a very powerful leader. Now Joseph was no longer a slave. When a great famine fell on the land, Joseph was the one who gave out food. The famine was so great that all the countries around Egypt also ran out of food. When Joseph’s own family became hungry, Jacob sent his older sons to Egypt to buy food so they would not starve. When they went to Joseph to ask for food, Joseph’s brothers did not recognize him at first, but Joseph knew them. Instead of punishing his brothers for selling him to the merchants, Joseph forgave them. Joseph brought his whole family to Egypt. There they could live and not be afraid of starving.

Copyright ©1998, Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski. Reproduced with permission.

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Moses was born in Egypt many, many years after Joseph died. At that time the Hebrew people were slaves. When he was a baby, Moses was adopted by the new pharaoh’s daughter. The people in the palace did not know that Moses was a Jew. When Moses grew up he saw how his people were being mistreated. When he saw a soldier beating one of the Jews, he killed the soldier. Moses had to run away and hide. One day, when he was up in the hills, Moses saw something very strange. He saw a burning bush. The bush kept burning and burning, but it never burned up. When he went up to the bush, Moses heard God’s voice. God told Moses to go back to Egypt and to help the Hebrew people become free. Moses was supposed to lead the people to the Promised Land. God convinced Moses that he would be able to do it because God’s power would be with him. After Egypt suffered many plagues, the pharaoh finally let the Hebrew people go. Moses led them into the desert, where they walked for forty years. They had many adventures. During that time, Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. Finally, they reached the Promised Land, but Moses died before the people entered it.

Copyright ©1998, Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski. Reproduced with permission.

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Ruth was a Moabite woman. She was not a Jew, but she married a man who was from Bethlehem. When her husband died she returned to the Promised Land with her mother-in-law, Naomi. When they got to Bethlehem, they were very poor. Ruth had to go out to the fields and follow the harvesters as they cut the sheaves of wheat. She collected the grain that the workers had left behind. This is how she and Naomi were able to eat. The owner of the field, Boaz, was a distant cousin of Ruth’s husband. He told the workers to be kind to Ruth and make sure no one hurt her. One day Naomi told Ruth to go to where Boaz was sleeping and lie down at his feet. Naomi said if she slept there all night, then Boaz would marry her. And that is what happened. Boaz married Ruth and they were both very happy. They had a son whose name was Obed. Obed was Jesse’s father. So Ruth was Jesse’s grandmother.

Copyright ©1998, Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski. Reproduced with permission.

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Jesse was a descendant of Ruth and Boaz. He lived in Bethlehem and had seven sons. One day a holy man came to visit the town. He was looking for the next king of Israel. God had sent him to Bethlehem to anoint the chosen one. When the holy man got to the town, God told him that the next king would be one of Jesse’s sons. Jesse introduced his oldest son to the man. “Surely, this must be the next king,” thought the man. “He is so handsome, so big and so strong.” But God told the man he was wrong, to keep looking. Jesse introduced all his other sons to the holy man, but none of them was the chosen one, either. Finally, when the man asked Jesse if he had any other sons, Jesse told him that his youngest son, still a boy, was in the fields watching the sheep. The man asked Jesse to send for him. The young boy was David. He was not very big; he was not very strong, but he was the chosen one. The holy man anointed him right there and then. Another prophet, Isaiah, called the Messiah who was to come the sprout or branch of Jesse because God told him that the Messiah would be a descendant of David.

Copyright ©1998, Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski. Reproduced with permission.

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David was the greatest king Israel ever had. He grew up a shepherd. He was also a very fine musician. David played a small harp. When he was still very young he killed a giant enemy soldier named Goliath. The giant laughed when David stood in front of him and told him he would win the fight because God was on his side. David killed Goliath with a stone from his slingshot. He saved his whole country. The man who was king became frightened because he could see how popular David was with the people. For many years David had to keep running and hiding just to stay alive. Some people say that this was when David wrote many of the psalms that are in our Bible. Eventually David was crowned king. He was a very wise and brave king. He made Israel a strong nation, a nation that was respected everywhere. The people all loved David.

Copyright ©1998, Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski. Reproduced with permission.

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Solomon was David’s son. He became the king when David died, almost a thousand years before Jesus was born. Solomon was responsible for building much of Jerusalem. He built the great Temple in the capital city so that the people would have a central place to gather and worship God. One day Solomon had a dream. In the dream God told the young king that anything he asked for would be his. After Solomon thought for a while, he asked God to give him an understanding heart and the wisdom to be a good king. God was very pleased with Solomon. God told him that because he had not asked for riches or long life but for the wisdom to be a good ruler, he would receive all three. Solomon became very rich. He was also considered a very wise person. He is traditionally considered the father of Israelite wisdom and wisdom literature. The years Solomon was king were peaceful and prosperous for the Hebrew people.

Copyright ©1998, Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski. Reproduced with permission.

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Isaiah and Micah were great prophets. (Prophets were people who warned the Hebrews not to worship other gods but to be faithful to the one true God, Yahweh. They kept reminding the people about their covenant with Yahweh.) Micah told the people that Yahweh wanted them to do just three things: to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with their God. He also told the people that the greatest ruler of the world would come from Bethlehem. Isaiah was one of the greatest prophets. He lived about seven hundred years before Jesus was born. Isaiah lived during a time when many of the Hebrew people had been captured by their enemies and were forced to move out of Israel. Isaiah offered the people hope. He told them to stay faithful to Yahweh. He told them that Yahweh would send them a Messiah. Prophets are often symbolized by a rose.

Copyright ©1998, Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski. Reproduced with permission.

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Jonah was another prophet. He lived about five hundred years before Jesus was born. God told Jonah to go to a certain city and tell them to repent and turn to God. Jonah did not want to go there because the people in the city were the enemies of the Hebrew people. There is a wonderful story about how God convinced Jonah to go to the city: After Jonah refused to go where God wanted to send him, he found himself tossed overboard from the ship he was sailing in. Suddenly a huge whale came along and swallowed Jonah. Jonah lived in the belly of the whale for three days before the whale spit him out onto the shore. Jonah learned the hard way that Yahweh wanted all people, not just the Hebrews, to believe in one true God.

Copyright ©1998, Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski. Reproduced with permission.

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Joseph was the man chosen by God to help Mary raise Jesus. He was Jesus’ foster father. He worked as a carpenter in a town called Nazareth. He used hammers and planes and other tools to build tables and chairs and other furniture for people. One night Joseph had a dream. In the dream an angel told Joseph to marry Mary. And that is what he did. Joseph was a descendant of David, so when it was time to go and sign up for the census, he took his wife, Mary, to Bethlehem, David’s city. That is where Jesus was born. Joseph was a very kind and gentle person. He took good care of Mary and Jesus.

Copyright ©1998, Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski. Reproduced with permission.

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Mary was Jesus’ mother. She was especially chosen by God, but she still had to say yes. One day when Mary was alone, an angel came to her and told her she was going to be the mother of a son. The baby would be called the Son of the Most High. Mary told the angel that it was impossible for her to have a child because she was a virgin. The angel told her to trust in God, that the Holy Spirit would take care of everything. The angel said that all things were possible because God was all-powerful. Mary said yes and became the mother of Jesus. Mary took good care of Jesus when he was a little baby and all through his growing-up years. She fed him and washed his clothes. She bandaged his cuts and kissed his bruises. Before Jesus died he asked his special friend to take care of Mary. Then he asked Mary to take care of his special friend. Since Jesus is our brother, Mary is also our mother. Her symbol is a lily.

Copyright ©1998, Judith Dunlap and Mary Cummins Wlodarski. Reproduced with permission.

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