One tradition that we have enjoyed as a family during the Christmas season is the Jesse Tree. A Jesse Tree is a great way to keep the focus on Christ and His plan for us as we are in the midst of a busy holiday season. In this post, I’ll share what the Jesse Tree is, how we use it as a holiday tradition, and some resources to help you begin your own Jesse Tree tradition.
What is the Jesse Tree?
The Jesse Tree is a visual representation of the history of Jesus Christ and His plan of redemption. Instead of jumping into history at the birth of Christ, the Jesse Tree begins in Genesis with God’s perfect creation, looks at the fall of man, traces the history of the Israelite people, and leads up to the birth of Christ.
The idea of a tree comes from the promise God makes His people in Isaiah 11: A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. All of Isaiah 11 is a prophecy of Christ and what He will come to do.
The Jesse Tree tradition begins with a tree. I’ve seen actual small Christmas trees used, but I’ve also seen and like the use of a bare tree with branches. The ornaments are used as a countdown during the season of Advent. Occasionally I’ve seen different symbols used, but the idea behind the tree is always the same; and the ornaments have the same basic meaning. The symbols are:
- Dove- Creation
- Apple- the first sin
- Ark- the flood
- Field of Stars- promise to Abraham
- Ram- the sacrifice of Isaac
- Ladder- Jacob’s dream of a ladder to Heaven
- Sack of Grain- Joseph and the leadership of Egypt
- Burning Bush- the call of Moses
- Lamb- Passover
- Torah Scrolls- The Ten Commandments
- Ram Horn Trumpet- Joshua and the battle of Jericho
- Clay Water Pitcher- Gideon (the Judges)
- Crown- Israel’s first king
- Shepherd’s Crook- David
- Stone Altar-Elijah and the false prophets
- Empty Tent- Hezekiah and the promise of forgiveness
- Fire Tongs With Hot Coal- Isaiah and the call to holiness
- Tears- Jeremiah and the exile of the Israelites
- Stone Watchtower- Waiting for deliverance
- City Wall- Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the city walls
- Scallop Shell- the promise of John the Baptist and the call to repentance
- White Lily- Mary, Christ’s mother
- Mother and Child- Elizabeth and her joy
- Pencil and Tablet- Zachariah and the birth of John the Baptist
- Hammer-Joseph the father of Jesus and his trust
- Star-the Magi worshiping Christ
- Manger- birth of Christ
- Chi Roh Symbol- symbol of Christ, son of God
How can the Jesse Tree be used to celebrate Advent?
Christmas can be an incredibly busy time and a time with lots of stress over buying and getting. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we are supposed to be celebrating Christ’s coming to earth. Using the Jesse Tree can be a way to draw our attention to Jesus Christ throughout the season.
In our home, we don’t have room for another tree, so we have a tree with branches drawn on a poster board. The ornaments are laminated and are attached to the tree with Velcro.
The Jesse Tree readings begin on the first day of Advent which is the fourth Sunday away from Christmas. Each day there is a Scripture reading and an ornament with a symbol that helps us to focus on the promise of Christ that began with Creation and followed through the history of the Israelite people. As we read the Scriptures we talk about the promise of Christ through the years and His coming to bring us salvation.
Where can you find resources to have your own Jesse Tree?
The Proverbial Homemaker has a post with a unique activity for the Jesse Tree. There are patterns for using Legos to make the Jesse Tree ornaments.
Using these ideas you can have a Jesse Tree in your home this year to help your family focus on the coming of Christ during the Christmas season.
Leah Courtney is a homeschooling mom of four. She was a school teacher in her former life and now loves homeschooling her children. Recently she began the adventure of homeschooling a high schooler. She loves reading and reviewing and blogging about life and homeschooling. You can visit her at As We Walk Along the Road.