At my church, each Christmas we have a Jesse tree. Written on each ornament is the
name and wish of a person needing a gift. Parishioners take an ornament and return it with the requested gift.
I’ve always wondered about this name, Jesse Tree. I’ve read the “A shoot shall sprout from the stump…” scripture in Isaiah 11 and I understand the connection to Jesus but to me a stump is just a dead tree. Perhaps that tree’s seeds from prior seasons will grow but that specific tree is gone. Or so I thought.
I’ve never seen a stump create a new tree. Every year, I think up tons of better names for this effort. I know Jesus is from the root of Jesse… But, until this Christmas, I have never heard of a stump actually growing back. Honestly, I thought God, and we, could do better with symbolism here.
During Advent this year though I went to Mass one morning and the priest shared a personal story in his homily about a storm he survived–a tornado that caused a lot of damage. The Church needed repairs, old trees were uprooted, one tree–though still standing–died and they cut it down leaving a stump. It regrew. (I hope I got all the details right.)
Then, this Christmas season, my friend from prayer group gave me a book about hope restored. This book begins with the writer purchasing a specific house because on its lawn was a large beautiful tree that had once died and been cut down–the previous owner shared–but regrew when he put in a sprinkler system.
Advent has been strange all around. For some reason, I’ve noticed the resurrection message in Mass and truly felt for the first time new life both now and forever being the ultimate goal–and gift–of Jesus. He didn’t live for His time on earth but for us in order to give us forever with Him. The same is true of the great saints already in heaven.
Also in Advent, I looked down into a planter that contained a once alive re-potted unique fern clipping I pilfered (sorry Lord if that was a sin) from the unkempt undergrowth at the back entrance of my neighborhood. My attempt failed and the plant died. I left it there in the planter planning to try something new in the spring. As I glanced down, I found a healthy, green shoot growing from the two leafless dark brown, brittle stalks that remained. Then I realized, I notice all the new trees in the undergrowth every time I run past that area and also…
Years ago, as I struggled to understand what Jesus meant about having to die in order to live, I found this scripture: “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).
To me this means giving up our very selves to God. When I realized this, and that the financial offerings we make on Sundays are a gift of self, I began to imagine–while in Mass as the collection was happening–placing my very self in that basket as it passed me. I told Jesus, “I am yours.” Dying to self and selfish wants is a continual struggle.
Have hope, my friend. The pain and losses in our lives can take hope away if we let it. Don’t give in! Give the Lord praise. Keep seeking (and finding) the Lord in each person you meet and in the events of every day!
Read Isaiah 11.