The ornaments of the Jesse Tree tell the story of God in the Old Testament, connecting the Advent season with the faithfulness of God across four thousand years of history.
Ornament: Burning Bush
God Calls Moses
God answers Moses, “I am who I am” (Yahweh). Other meanings of God's answer can be “I come to be all that exists” and “I cause to be all that happens.” God seems to be saying that God will come in his own time and will not be controlled by Moses. God will be who he will be. He came to save the people because it is his choice. “And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, “The Lord”; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy'” (Exodus 33:19).
The Birth of Moses — Exodus 1-2
Moses Meets God in the Burning Bush — Exodus 3
Pharaoh's Contest with God — Exodus 5-6
Monday: The Israelites
Passover and Exodus
Moses gathers the people. He orders that a lamb be sacrificed and the blood of the lamb be put on the doorframes of the houses. This will be a sign to God to “pass over” the houses of the Hebrews. That night the Hebrews eat roasted lamb and unleavened bread, preparing for the journey. Egyptian houses are filled with mourning, “for there was not a house without someone dead” (Exodus 12:30). Pharaoh, finally convinced that he cannot defeat God, lets the people go.
Passover — Exodus 11-13
Journey to the Sea — Exodus 14:1-15:21
Testing in the Desert — Exodus 15:22-17:16
Ornament: Tablets of the Torah
God Gives the People the Law
When Moses and Aaron go up on Mount Sinai, God first reminds them of what he has done for them: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). He then tells them what they need to do in order to live in relationship with God and one another. We call these instructions the Ten Commandments.
The Hebrews Meet God at Sinai — Exodus 19
I Am the Lord Your God — Exodus 20:1-11
Loving the Neighbor — Exodus 20:7-21
Ornament: Ram's Horn Trumpet
Joshua and the Fall of Jericho
Joshua led the Hebrew people from success to success in conquering the land of Canaan. The biblical writer attributes this to his obedience and faithfulness to God. The Canaanite people were defeated, their cities were destroyed, and the spoils of war were offered to God. Like Moses, Joshua was successful until his death, at the age of 110, the same age of Joseph at his death.
Rahab and the Fall of Jericho — Joshua 2; 6
Joshua Renews the Covenant — Joshua 23-24
Ornament: Clay Water Pitcher
Gideon's Unlikely Victory
Gideon, a farmer, is threshing his wheat in a winepress so that he can hide it from the Midianites. When God tells him that he will lead the Hebrew people against their enemies, Gideon ridicules the idea. He tells God that God abandoned the people and does not seem prepared to keep his promises. God is not put off; he gives the task to Gideon and promises that he will be with him. Gideon does not think much of God's choice, as his tribe is among the smallest. God, of course, realizes this. God wants to emphasize that when victory comes, it comes from God. The Hebrew people will never win if they depend on themselves.
Gideon's Small Army — Judges 6-8
Samuel and the Beginning of the Kingdom
Saul is a member of the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest of the tribes. He is described as handsome and tall, a man of substance. His father, a wealthy man, loses a number of donkeys. Saul goes in search of them but cannot find them. Told of a holy man in a nearby town, Saul goes to see him to ask if he can help Saul find the donkeys. Samuel is in the shrine of the town, conducting the sacrifices. When Samuel sees Saul, he realizes that Saul is the man God has told him about in a dream. God told Samuel that Saul is the man who will help free the people from the Philistines.
God Calls to Samuel — 1 Samuel 3
Samuel and Saul — 1 Samuel 10-12
Ornament: Shepherd's Crook or Harp
David, a Shepherd to the People
David was a great poet and a person of deep, yet flawed, spirituality. He is credited with a heartfelt song of faith in God for his continued protection (2 Samuel 22). In this song, David describes God as a rock, fortress, deliverer, shield, horn, stronghold, and refuge. God's actions in David's life are like the mighty forces of nature aiding him: breakers surge and floods overwhelm; the earth sways and shakes, trembles and quakes. David's enemies flee and are destroyed, ground into the dust and trampled. God's commitment to David will not end, though David is unfaithful in many ways. God's covenant love is steadfast and enduring.
The Young David — 1 Samuel 16-17
David and Jonathan — 1 Samuel 18
Saul and David — 1 Samuel 24; 28
David the King — 2 Samuel 5-6
David, Bathsheba, and Nathan — 2 Samuel 11-12
David's Later Years — 2 Samuel 19-24
This information is excerpted from The Stories of the Old Testament: A Catholic's Guide by Jim Campbell.