During the Nativity Fast, your family can put up a Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree represents the family tree, or genealogy of Jesus Christ beginning with creation and continuing through the Old Testament, to the coming of the Messiah. The tree is named after Jesse, the father of King David. A drawing of a tree or a tabletop tree can be used for this activity. Each day throughout the Nativity Fast, add a new ornament to the tree. The ornament represents a person or a religious symbol and is accompanied by a reading from scripture. Ideally, these ornaments are handmade from various materials: paper, felt, crafts sticks, etc. prior to the Nativity Fast or can be purchased from multiple websites. Gather your children together each day to hang a new ornament and to reflect on the reading.
This icon is by the hand of Nicholas Papas. It is located at St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church, Souderton, PA.
This icon depicts the many prophecies of the Virgin birth of Christ. There are twelve Old Testament prophets, shown holding things that reveal their identity and the prophecy they foretold of the Theotokos and the virgin birth of Christ.
In the top row, from left to right: St. Daniel, whose scroll reads: "The stone was cut out of the Mountain without hands" (Daniel 2:45); St. Moses holding the bush that was burning, yet not consumed (Exodus 3:2-4); St. David, whose scroll reads: "Arise O Lord into thy rest: Thou and the ark of thy strength." (Psalm 132:8); St. Isaiah holding tongs with live coals (Isaiah 6:6); St. Jeremiah, whose scroll reads: "He was seen upon earth and conversed with men." (Baruch 3:37); St. Samuel holding a throne referring to St. Nathan's prophecy to King David whom St. Samuel had anointed (2 Samuel 7:13-16). In the bottom row, from left to right: St. Habakkuk holding the overshadowed Mountain that is the Virgin (Habakkuk 3:3); St. Micah, whose scroll reads: "He is come unto the gate of my people." (Micah 1:9); St. Gideon holding a fleece: "As dew upon the fleece hast Thou descended into the womb of the Virgin, O Christ" (Judges 6:37-38); St. Ezekiel, whose scroll reads: "This gate shall be shut, It shall not be opened." (Ezekiel 44:2); St. Amos holding an ark referring to the Virgin serving as the Tabernacle of Christ (Amos 9:11); Prophet Balaam, whose scroll reads: "There shall come a star out of Jacob and a scepter shall arise" (Numbers 24:17).
Enthroned in the center of the tree sits the Holy Virgin Mary. At the foot of the tree lays St. Jesse asleep. Jesse is portrayed asleep, to tell us in a way that we know his righteous character not so much by the works done in his own lifetime so much as by the righteous line that proceeded from him. That line which started with David and culminated with the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ our Savior. We don't know much about Jesse, other than that he was the father of King David, who was "a man after God's own heart." But the Scripture honors him calling Jesus Christ the "root of Jesse".
And again, Isaiah says: “There shall be a root of Jesse; and He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in Him the Gentiles shall hope.” Romans 15:12
Canticle Four, First Canon from the Matins service of the Nativity of Christ:
Rod of the root of Jesse, and flower that blossomed from his stem, O Christ, Thou hast sprung from the Virgin. From the Mountain overshadowed by the forest Thou hast come, made flesh from her that knew not wedlock, O God who art not formed from matter. Glory to Thy power, O Lord.
O Christ, whom Jacob foretold in days of old, calling Thee the Expectation of the nations, Thou hast shone forth from the tribe of Judah, and Thou hast come to plunder the strength of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria, turning their error into faith beautiful to God. Glory to Thy power, O Lord.
O Master who hast risen as a Star out of Jacob, Thou hast filled with joy the watchers of the stars, who interpreted wisely the words of Balaam, the soothsayer of old. As the first fruits of the Gentiles were they led unto Thee, and Thou hast openly received them, as they brought Thee acceptable gifts. Glory to Thy power, O Lord.
As dew upon the fleece hast Thou descended into the womb of the Virgin, O Christ, and as drops of rain that fall upon the earth. Ethiopia and Tarshish and the isles of Arabia, the kings of Saba, of the Medes and all the earth, fell down before Thee, O Savior. Glory to Thy power, O Lord.
Compiled by Rebekah Yergo