While many of our Christmas traditions have been passed down by my parents and grandparents, one of my very favorites is a tradition that began in my adulthood with my own children. The Jesse Tree tradition has had such a sweet impact on the culture of our family.
In a previous post, I wrote about my favorite Advent devotional for families with children, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. This specific book paved the way for our family’s introduction to the Jesse Tree, but there are numerous Jesse Tree devotions and guides available on Amazon, Pinterest, and even in Christian bookstores. I’ll share a few resources later in the post, but perhaps you’re unfamiliar with the Jesse Tree itself.
Allow me to explain the tradition of a Jesse Tree. The first thing children, my children and my students, ask about the Jesse Tree is why we call it a “Jesse Tree” and not a “Jesus Tree.” I think that’s a fair question, but let’s dive into the origin of this name. Shall we? The name Jesse comes from Jesse, the father of David in the Bible. In Isaiah, Jesse is called the stump from which a branch will come forth and bear everlasting fruit.
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.” ~Isaiah 11:1-3
I’d love to encourage you to read the rest of Isaiah 11 on your own, especially verse 10. For the sake of this conversation, you can see that Isaiah was prophesying that Jesus would be born from the line of Jesse, the father of King David.
So, what is a Jesse Tree?
A Jesse Tree is a small Christmas tree with ornaments and coordinating daily Bible readings that teach children the lineage of Jesus. This may sound rather boring, but I have discovered that children love learning about the family tree of Jesus. The Bible as a whole makes so much more sense once we understand the family line from Adam to Jesus. It is important for children (and grown-ups) to know that the Gospel is one story from Genesis to Revelation.
My own children have been completely engaged in these evening Bible readings and ornaments since the preschool years, yet my former 5th and 6th grade students couldn’t wait to put the next ornament on the tree each day. This Advent activity is truly meaningful for all ages.
What kind of tree are we talking here?
The Jesse Tree is done in a variety of ways. In my own home, we have used everything from a tiny, pencil tree (that I once used to decorate my college dorm room) to a green construction paper cut-out. The newest addition of Unwrapping the Greatest Gift called The Wonder of the Greatest Gift has a pop-up tree inside the book. What a great idea, right?! Some families use an artificial tree in the center of the dinner table while others put a few pine branches in a mason jar. You’re free to do this thing your way, friends.
Where do I find ornaments for a Jesse Tree?
Like the tree itself, the ornaments can be however simple or fancy you choose. Likewise, they can be as cost effective as construction paper or you can find entire (beautiful) Jesse Tree ornament sets available online. The first few years our family decorated a Jesse Tree, I printed the free ornaments onto white computer paper from Ann Voskamp’s website, A Holy Experience. I printed them, used a hole punch to put a hole at the top of the circle, and then hung them by a piece of white string. This simplicity worked for me and gave our tiny tree a clean look. A few years ago, while I was teaching at a private Christian school, I found a Jesse Tree resource on the Oriental Trading website for about $5, with ornaments that my students could color. The students colored the ornaments themselves and then placed them on this bulletin board (conveniently beside a Bible Family Tree Poster) until the day of the corresponding Bible story, when they moved the ornament to the Jesse Tree in the classroom.
A few years ago, I used this coloring book from Amazon. I will admit that I’ve always had my eye on a fancier set of ornaments from Dayspring, but who has extra money at Christmas? Haha! Paper ornaments it is! To be honest, I think part of the appeal to children is the chance to be a part of the creativity of the ornaments.
Sweet friends, there are so many ways to create your own Jesse Tree tradition. I hope you will find a way that works well for your own family. I deeply hope you will enjoy this Advent tradition as your family prepares for the celebration of Jesus year after year. It is my deepest desire that people will come to know Jesus as the Lord and Savior of their lives. May this be another way we can teach about the heart of God and the good news of the Gospel throughout the entire Bible.
From my heart to yours,