The Stories of our Shared Family Tree

Advent Reflection, Friday, December 10

By: Amelia McDaniel

Knowing your family tree is a great gift. I love hearing stories about the people who have gone before me, like my great-grandmother who moved west in a covered wagon or my first-generation Lebanese grandfather who made his way in a new country. These are the kind of stories that feed my imagination and my understanding of who I am in this life.

Today, we learn about the genealogy of the people of God, the stories of Jesus’s family tree. We call this the ‘Jesse Tree’ which comes from the scripture that says “out of the stump of Jesse will spring a Savior.” The practice of the Jesse Tree traces the story of God’s people from the beginnings of creation through the birth of Jesus. There are some real characters in there. Some of the stories in this family tree are a little dicey and a little racy, but nevertheless show both the goodness and tom foolery of being a human in this world. All the stories reveal that we are made by a loving God who simply refuses to give up on us no matter how ridiculous we can be.

For the past few weeks, the children and youth have been making Jesse Tree ornaments. We began with the story of Creation and the Fall. Let me tell you: there were some questions. Hard ones. Like “why do people have to die?” and “just where is that serpent now?” When we told the story of Abraham and Sarah being the father and mother of a nation more numerous than the stars, their eyes widened in wonder. Telling the stories of the people we belong to is a way of inviting them into this great, big, grand family tree that we are a part of. And the same invitation is offered to you today.

I hope when you hear the stories from the Jesse Tree you will smile and let your imagination go. What if Noah was your great-great-uncle who came through on a visit every summer and told you crazy tales about the ark? What if sitting around in a family gathering someone told you that you laughed just like your great-great-grandmother Sarah? Or imagine that as a kid struggling to master a skill that required you growing bigger, someone reminded you that your third cousin ten times removed, was David and that small people, with God’s help, can do big things.

It may sound a little wacky to stretch our imaginations that far. But these stories really are the stories of our shared family tree. They remind us how far we have come – by the faith of our mothers and fathers who have gone before us who trusted in God’s promise of love. And they remind us to how we are to carry on – with great hope, love, and trust in God’s never-failing love.