First! Before we start the Jesse Tree religious art devotional:
Happy feast day of Saint Nicholas!
This is always a fun feast day because it involves probably way too much candy. My kids put out their shoes last night, and lo and behold, when they woke up, little bags filled with chocolate coins filled their shoes!
My one-year-old was especially beside herself with this marvelous miracle. After realizing what was in her and her siblings’ shoes, she proceeded to look through every shoe in the entire house. By the end of her thorough search, shoes were strewn around our house in a particularly thorough manner, and I am now convinced that, when she grows up, she will be an investigator of some sorts.
In any case, Saint Nicholas was amazing. If you want to know a bunch of awesome stories about him, since he is super amazing, go to this old blog that I wrote up last year which basically explains an icon which summarizes his life. You will not regret it!
And now… the Jesse Tree!
Here is the ornament!
It’s supposed to be a sky full of a countless amount of stars, as reference to the promise that God made to Abraham. My husband, of course, saw this ornament and said, “Hey, I can count how many stars there are!”
Now, that famous imagery of God pointing to the stars with Abraham looking is almost impossible to find any classic illustrations for. It’s maddening! Which is strange because to us modern people, looking at the stars is this amazing experience. Whenever I go out into the country, I always spend an obscene amount of time staying up way too late and stargazing.
So, why isn’t it a more popular subject? I haven’t a clue! Maybe people were less thrilled with the idea of night than us modern folks? Maybe I am just using the wrong search terms? Or maybe… something else?
Another thing… there aren’t actually a lot of classic artworks of Baby Isaac???
I mean. A good chunk of the Genesis narrative revolves around Abraham and Sarah yearning for a child, yet being unable to conceive by themselves. So, when the child Isaac does come around, you would expect that there would be lots of pictures celebrating the birth of the child Isaac.
Except… that isn’t quite what I found.
Mind you, I found a couple pictures of Isaac getting circumcised. Which, honestly seems a bit of a foreshadowing… after all, Abraham is usually depicted as doing the cutting, and very soon Abraham will wield a knife toward Isaac again.
But still! the lack of cute baby pictures of Isaac was a bit startling. It got so bad that I actually stumbled on a Protestant website that was doing its best to illustrate the Old Testament with classic artwork. And they ended up using pictures of the Virgin Mary’s birth, just to have a cute sort of baby religious artwork.
But I digress!
Let’s continue with the scripture for today’s Jesse Tree readings, shall we?
God’s Promise with Abraham
1Some time afterward, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: Do not fear, Abram! I am your shield; I will make your reward very great.2But Abram said, “Lord GOD, what can you give me, if I die childless and have only a servant of my household, Eliezer of Damascus?” 3Abram continued, “Look, you have given me no offspring, so a servant of my household will be my heir.” 4Then the word of the LORD came to him: No, that one will not be your heir; your own offspring will be your heir. 5He took him outside and said: Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so, he added, will your descendants be.
1 The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oak of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent, while the day was growing hot. 2Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground, 3he said: “Sir, if it please you, do not go on past your servant. 4Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet, and then rest under the tree. 5Now that you have come to your servant, let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh yourselves; and afterward you may go on your way.” “Very well,” they replied, “do as you have said.”
6Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick, three measures of bran flour! Knead it and make bread.” 7He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice calf, and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it. 8Then he got some curds and milk, as well as the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them, waiting on them under the tree while they ate.9“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There in the tent,” he replied.
10One of them said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.” Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent, just behind him. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years, and Sarah had stopped having her menstrual periods. 12So Sarah laughed to herself and said, “Now that I am worn out and my husband is old, am I still to have sexual pleasure?” 13But the LORD said to Abraham: “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really bear a child, old as I am?’ 14Is anything too marvelous for the LORD to do? At the appointed time, about this time next year, I will return to you, and Sarah will have a son.”
1The LORD took note of Sarah as he had said he would; the LORD did for her as he had promised. 2Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time that God had stated. 3Abraham gave the name Isaac to this son of his whom Sarah bore him. 4When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded. 5Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6Sarah then said, “God has given me cause to laugh, and all who hear of it will laugh with me. 7Who would ever have told Abraham,” she added, “that Sarah would nurse children! Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
Do you remember what I said about Abraham with a knife foreshadowing the next scene?
Well! Hold on to your horses, because tomorrow it’s the Sacrifice of Isaac! And trust me… there are soooo many artworks that depict that!