On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious. On that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. -- Isaiah 11:10-11
In the genealogy of Jesus, the name of Jesse appears as the grandson of Ruth and Boaz as well as the descendant of a man named Perez who lived in Bethlehem. It is here that the prophecy ties to Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Jesse had a number of sons, including David, a young man out tending sheep when Samuel summoned him to be anointed king, a job he finally inherited about fifteen years later upon the death of Saul. No other king of Israel has been as lauded or honored. Only David’s son Solomon, comes close to the respect and adulation of his father.
Just as David was said to unify the nations (tribes), Jesus is seen to gather in the wider world to the furthest corners that David and his descendants knew nothing about. Isaiah spoke of the remnant, the people who had been scattered in the Diaspora after the Babylonian Exile. It seems to us that Jesus looked beyond the Jewish people to those outside but who still could be considered God’s children, even if they weren’t Jewish.
During Advent, many churches and families mark the days by making a Jesse Tree, a series of scriptures and illustrations from creation to the birth of Jesus, one for each day. The term Jesse Tree alludes to the scriptures that foretell a branch coming from the root of Jesse which will be the messiah, a prophecy Christians see fulfilled in the birth of Jesus.
Among our Advent preparations, maybe it might be a good thing to consider making a Jesse tree, a tree that traces our salvation history. It is an activity families can do together in a time when there are so many activities claiming time away from the family. It is also a way to remember some of the less remarked figures in the story, like Jesse, father of David and the root from which the family tree grew.