The Jesse Tree is a Christian tradition dating back to the European Middle Ages. For each of the days of Advent leading up to Christmas Day, we read about someone in Jesus’ family tree. The name Jesse Tree derives from Isaiah 11:1, which is where we begin our Jesse Tree readings.
There has always been the promise, through the likes of Abraham and King David, that through God’s chosen people all nations would be blessed. There was also always belief that God would be faithful in keeping His promises. Hope is born from the marriage of this belief and that promise. Hope, however, is hard to see in Isaiah 10.
This chapter describes the barren burned out landscape of Israel’s exile. Israel, God’s chosen people, rejected Him time and again, but there was always a faithful remnant. Though the forest of Israel has been chopped down and burned over with fire, there will emerge a shoot and branch from the charred stump of Jesse.
Imagine or remember walking through a forest after a forest fire. The air is still pungent, and the ash is everywhere. This is a grayscale landscape, all white ash, smoky gray, and charcoal black. From this bleak black and white world, the green growth of new life will arise.
Jesus, this shoot of Jesse, was born as the evergreen fulfillment of that promise. From the ashen desolation of Israel’s exile, however, the shoot of Jesse is off in the distant future. Israel’s remnant clings to this future hope, trusting in the faithfulness of God.
On this first day of Advent, imagine sitting in the barrenness of exile with the remnant of Israel. There is absolutely nothing you can do about your situation. Your only hope is that shoot of Jesse. You cling in faith to that promise.
Do we have that faith of Israel's remnant in God today? When life seems to be burning down around us, is Jesus the hope to which we cling? Or do we instead place our trust in the cherished idols of money, power, and success?
This long promised son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is our hope and our king. When the forest is felled and burned over, He is the One who remains. Thank God for that!