Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, or whether you celebrate Jesus’ birth in December or not, it’s good to occasionally look back at the birth of Yeshua (Jesus) and be reminded of what an awesome event it was.* More than just a cute baby born in Bethlehem, he was the Messianic Son of David, the fulfillment of prophecies stretching back through the ages to the Creation itself.
* December 25th first became the date for the celebration of Jesus’ birth in the 4th century. Before this, January 6th was the date of celebration. The connection between December 25th and January 6th is still marked by the festal period known as the Twelve Days of Christmas. The New Testament itself doesn’t mention the date of Jesus’ birth.
Beginning in the Middle Ages (10th cent.), Christian art expressed the anticipation of Jesus’ coming with the Jesse Tree. This was a symbolic tree or vine that represented the prophecy in Isaiah 11:1 that the Messiah would be “a branch…from the stump of Jesse.” The spreading branches represented Jesse’s descendants, the ancestors of Jesus listed in the genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. The prophets that prophesied his coming were also often shown, as in the illuminated manuscript shown here. (For more pictures, see the Wikipedia article Jesse Tree).*
* This led to the idea of representing one’s ancestry as a tree, resulting in the idea of a family tree.
In recent years, the tradition has started of putting up a Jesse Tree in the weeks before Christmas and hanging on it symbols of Jesus’ ancestors and the prophets that prophesied his birth. This is usually done during the month of December, with a new symbol being added each day accompanied by a Scripture reading. This is an improvement over many Advent calendars because it includes the prophecies and events all through the Bible that point to Jesus’ birth. This makes it more clear to children and others why this birth is so extremely important.