The liturgical season of Advent draws us in, inviting us to pay attention to the story. This season is the lead up to the birth of Jesus but it in doing so it points us to the hundreds of stories that came before – stories of shepherds, queens, grace and the faithfulness of God to his people. The Jesse Tree: A Story of Unexpected Abundance written by Matt Timms and illustrated by Sam Gutierrez is a devotional practice written specifically to guide us through these stories.
Jesse doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the biblical story. Other than some genealogies and a brief story in which he is not the focus, Jesse regularly goes unmentioned. Jesse was, as far we know, a pretty regular guy in ancient Israel. But he shows up in one of the more significant prophetic passages in Scripture. It’s kind of unexpected.
In Isaiah 11:1, many years after Jesse’s death, the prophet proclaims: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” It’s a prophesy that points towards the Messiah, Jesus and looks back to the fact that Jesse, while being a regular guy, had a pretty irregular son – David, King of Israel.
We’re more familiar with David, but I love that there is a practice named not after him, but after Jesse. Because God doesn’t just work with the famous or the celebrity, he works with the regular people as well (and perhaps, more so). The Jesse Tree had its roots in an artistic portrayal reflecting on Isaiah 11. Artists would visually trace the heritage of Jesse by portraying a tree with various biblical individuals residing in the branches, ultimately culminating in Jesus.
More recently, the Jesse Tree has become an Advent-based practice. The idea of tracing the story remains the same, but this practice takes 24 different images or stories from Scripture and walks through them in anticipation of Christ’s birth. It’s a story that is sometimes familiar, often surprising, and full of grace throughout.
Here at Granite Springs, we’ve put together our own version of the Jesse Tree. Rather than just retell the biblical story, we’ve tried to use the images that go along with the stories to explore the ways that God reveals himself to us in this season. With wonderful images designed by Granite Springs’s own Sam Gutierrez, the hope is that you can use the images to meditate on the richness of Advent as you walk through the biblical story, from Creation to the birth of Jesus.
It’s a story that is inviting and compelling because it’s not just the story of kings. It’s the story of big grapes and leftover wheat. It’s the story of unlikely queens and faithful carpenters. It’s a story that has lions and rams and really big fish. And it’s a story that has the power to transform our hearts and lives. May you find grace in the story in unexpectedly abundant ways this Advent season.
Copies of The Jesse Tree: A Story of Unexpected Abundance will be available for free to Granite Springs attendees throughout the Advent season or you can purchase a copy from Amazon directly.