Friday, November 9, 2007

The Jesse Tree

One of my favorite traditions growing up was having a Jesse Tree each December. Every night in December we would have a family devotion about a different part of God's plan for His people leading up to the birth of Christ. The concept of the Jesse Tree is based on Isaiah 11:1, and the prophecy that the Savior would come from "the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." Over the years, we made or collected different ornaments to represent the events or people we learned about each night. The tree was a great visual and daily reminder of what we're really celebrating during the Advent season.

Last year we tried to do the Jesse Tree with Hannah, with mixed success. We were a little frustrated by the scarce notes we had, and we didn't take time in advance to really plan out which passages to read with which night, or how to tie them together. One challenge we have in Family Worship is how to communicate truth without maxing out attention spans and comprehension levels. A friend recently told me that they had started using children's Bibles for parts of family worship, and that seemed like a good idea, although I wouldn't want to totally supplant the use of God's Word, because I think Scripture can work in children's hearts even if it seems to be going over their heads.

I searched online for a Jesse Tree outline that was comprehensive, included Scripture references, and emphasized how the entire Bible points to Christ. I didn't find anything of the sort. There are a variety of sites with ideas, some have Scripture, some have touchy-feely stuff, none had ideas for young children tied I decided to compile my own list.

In the posts below you will see a picture of the ornament we use, because I wanted to give you ideas for how you could use ornaments you already have, make them, or be on the lookout for them in advance. I have changed some of the days and ornaments from the list we used growing up, because I wanted to fill in some gaps. If you have other ideas for ornaments that could represent a concept or person, or if you find a great place to buy them, please leave a comment in that particular day's post. I definitely want to replace or improve on several of our ornaments, so I'm open to suggestion!

I listed Scripture references from the Old Testament, and from the New Testament where something came to mind. If you have ideas for other connections or passages, please leave a comment on that post! I'd love for this to be a more in-depth resource.

Finally, I went through the two children's Bibles we have to find sections that correspond with that day's devotion. The Beginner's Bible by Zondervan has a lot of short stories, but sometimes I find them a bit thin on the facts, and they don't really tie in together in most cases. The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm has broader sections, but what I really like about it is how each section points to Christ and traces God's redemptive plan. What I can see doing is making a point to read the children's Bible stories to my children during the day and talk about the concepts with them, so that when we have Family Worship with my husband later they will know what to expect when we read a short passage from the Bible. We'll see how it goes, we may try different things.

If you have a Jesse Tree tradition, I'd love to hear about it. If you blog about it, feel free to leave a link in the comments section of a particular day or this introduction post. I hope to update and flesh out these notes as I can, and I'd love to get your input.


Anonymous said...

We began the Jesse Tree tradition last year with our young children using the readings from this site:

Our children are young, so we simply had them color the pictures of the symbols and we glued them to a huge paper tree taped to our pantry door. Crude, but it worked. They thoroughly enjoyed it and it did add meaning to the season for us. We plan to do it again this year but with a bit more creativity in the ornaments! We have not exactly worked out the details yet.

I enjoy your blog, by the way. I also live in Indy, actually attend the same church as your in-laws! We have several common acquaintances; Diane G. was recently very helpful in teaching me how to grind my own wheat and make my own bread. It's a small world!

Kevin & Amy said...

This is great Catherine! We hope to integrate some of this into our family traditions. I think it's a fabulous thing. Thanks for sharing!

Catherine said...

Thanks Anonymous, it's a small world!

ashley @ twentysixcats said...

So I've been looking for ornaments the past couple of days, and I had a great idea. At Michael's (craft store) they had little wooden pictures for only 25 cents each. They had some cute designs, and all you'd have to do is attach a hook to the back. That might be a cheap option for people who don't have any or many of the ornaments! I think I am done shopping; I'll just make all the rest of the ornaments.

Heather said...

My family and I are just beginning our Jesse Tree this year. I noticed that your readings for the day are different from the on-line Jesse Tree readings that I found. Do the readings for the day differ by denomination? I'm Baptist, so I don't have an affiliation with a denomination that has Jesse Tree resources.

Catherine said...

Heather, our denomination doesn't do the Jesse Tree - I didn't realize there were denominations that did. I think the readings are pretty flexible. You can do whatever you want, the idea being that you learn how the whole Bible points to Christ. I based ours off of the list we used when I was little, and I don't know where my parents found it originally.

Christina said...

Hi Catherine, I found your web site from Money Saving Mom. We have done a Jesse Tree for the last three years. We have used a little book I got from Amazon. It was OK, but I really like what you've put together! And we already have all these books. We make our ornaments out of sculpy clay and I think most of them are the same. Thanks for putting this all together and sharing on your blog! I think we'll try it this year.

It looks like we have a lot of common interests. If you'd like to visit my blog it is at:


autismtymz2 said...

The warmest of greetings to you,

Thank you for your detailed post about your family's Jesse Tree. You did all of the leg work for me :)

Huge electronic hugs to you :)

Robyn said...

Thank you so much for posting this. My husband & I read the book The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean a few years ago before we had any kids. We now have a one year old and I am writing a Jesse Tree devotion for our family to use this year. Thank you for sharing yours and the cooresponding pages in the children's bibles. We love the Big Picture Story Bible. My one year old and I have read it a couple of times already.

Another great kids bible that points to Jesus is the Jesus Story Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones. I will be using it as well as the Big Picture Bible. Thanks again!

cb said...

I have ornaments if you're interested.

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Amy said...

There is a free Jesse Tree book available at This is a great resource for anyone wanting to do a Jesse Tree. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

Jaimie said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! This is our first year doing this and I just copied and pasted your whole blog into a Word document so I could print it out and have it handy :) I am going to blog about it and link back to you as well - but only if that's okay?

Thank you for doing this!