Well, tonight is our homeschool group's Jesse Tree ornament swap. We had 25 or so families sign up for an ornament to come up with 28 ornaments - some families made 2 so we could get to 28. [the most days in Advent are 28 - some years have less days]
THE STORY OF THE JESSE TREE Jesse was the father of the great King David of the Old Testament. He is often looked upon as the first person in the genealogy of Jesus.
In Church art a design developed showing the relationship of Jesus with Jesse and other biblical personages. This design showed a branched tree growing from a reclining figure of Jesse. The various branches had pictures of other Old and New Testament figures who were ancestors of Jesus. At the top of the tree were figures of Mary and Jesus. This design was used mostly in stained glass windows in some of the great medieval cathedrals of Europe. The Cathedral of Chartres (which was dedicated in 1260) has a particularly beautiful Jesse Tree window.
Another development in religious art during the Middle Ages was that of Mystery Plays--drama that depicted various Bible stories or lives of Saints and Martyrs. These plays were performed in churches as part of the liturgical celebrations. One such play was based on the Bible account of the fall of Adam and Eve. The "Tree of Life" used during the play was decorated with apples. (Quite possibly this is also the forerunner of our own Christmas tree.)
Combining the two ideas of the stained glass Jesse Tree window and the Tree of Life from the Mystery Play we come up with our Jesse Tree Advent project. This custom has been used for years to help Christians to prepare for Christmas.
I can't wait to see all the different ornaments tonight. To see each family's own creation. As an aside, I'll be finishing mine up today!
So be on the lookout for all the pictures of all the ornaments. It may give you ideas to use with your own groups.
Some other ideas for making Advent more meaningful are here and go check out Sara's post on her own family's Advent traditions.