Nov 9, 2014

The Jesse Tree

Many years ago, even before my youngest 2 children were born, (at least 22 years ago) I was sitting quietly pondering what Christmas would look like in our home that year.  Christmas is what Christmas is, a wonderful, joyful holiday that can make us all crazy with details like shopping, baking, cleaning, merriment, and not to mention feeling overwhelmed.

It seemed that I always got caught up in the busyness of Christmas, (and still do). Our budget was normally strained and making the dollars stretch when there were so many gifts to come up with was challenging. Fortunately I've always been pretty handy with needle, thread, hook, and yarn so I could produce some pretty nice gifts without spending a lot of money. But the flip side of that was the reality that these productions took time and often added greatly to the Christmas whirlwind.

During those quiet moments I asked the Lord to help me to keep the focus on Him. What could I do to keep Him uppermost in the thoughts of our family. And then it came to me ... why not do a Jesse Tree?

So what is a Jesse Tree you ask? It comes from the passage in Isaiah 11.

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

Jesse was David's father and the Messiah was to come from the line of David. A Jesse Tree focuses on the "family tree" of Jesus where over the course of Advent we are reminded of all the people and events that led up to and preceded Jesus' coming. It's a very concrete, visual way to focus on the "reason for the season," Jesus Himself. Each day there is a short devotional and Bible reading, and an ornament to hang on the little tree, an ornament that represents the person or event read about that day.

I recall one year when my mother made a Jesse Tree. She may have done this a number of years but I can only recall her doing it once. Each day the Bible passage was read and the symbol hung on the tree. She made her tree out of twigs placed in a can and secured with some kind of clay. As I recall she spray painted the can and twigs gold and made the ornaments out of felt.

That year when I had my "revelation" to do a Jesse Tree I was hopeful that somewhere in my mother's attic or basement the patterns and devotionals would be found. But no. She hadn't seen them in years. So I was on my own! And these were the days before Google, before you could type in a search topic and get thousands of hits in the blink of an eye!

I may not have had the internet but I did have 2 other resources; the local library and a very good friend, Jill Novak. Some of you might be familiar with her through her book, The Gift of Family Writing and her website, Remembrance Press. She is one remarkably creative woman. At the time we lived in the same town and attended the same church. Now we live several states away from each other but are still good friends!

Through the library I found a Jesse Tree devotional which gave me Bible verses and ideas for the ornaments. It was quite the undertaking. Good thing it was early to mid-November because everything would need to be finished by Dec 1.

I knew I needed help to pull together a completed Jesse Tree and Jill was up to the task. I showed her the devotional with the suggested symbols for each day's reading and her creative juices started flowing. She designed simple ornaments made out of felt with puffy paint to outline and embellish details. It was exciting to watch this project take shape.

I no longer have the symbols I made. They were lost in a move, then rediscovered some years later, and then lost again. Unfortunately, keeping track of things isn't my strong suite! But thankfully, Jill didn't lose hers! I called her and she sent me pictures of them.

The ladder above represents Jacob. Above that are carpenter's tools representing Joseph, the husband of Mary.

Noah's Ark

The Ten Commandments

The crown represents the wisdom of King Solomon

A bed representing Samuel when God called him at night while he was sleeping.

Altar representing Zechariah and Elizabeth

The harp representing David

Jill used a miniature Christmas tree for her Jesse Tree and I made mine as a wall hanging out of felt, unfortunately also lost long ago.

The wall hanging Jesse Tree was essentially a tree stump with branches sprouting from it cut out of brown felt and glued onto a white felt background, edged with gold braid glued around the edge as a border. As I recall that gold braid needed to be re-glued several times! It was very basic, with a dowel inserted into a pocket at the top that extended about an inch on each side. The Jesse Tree banner was then hung by a cord tied on to the sides of the dowel. The ornaments were hung on the tree with velcro dots with the soft loop side glued onto the felt tree and the hard hook side glued on to the individual ornaments. It worked surprisingly well.

I may have lost the wall hanging and ornaments but I do however still have the list of readings that we used. And that's the most important thing, don't you think?

Below is just one possible list of Jesse Tree readings and symbols. Obviously there are other Scriptures you might want to include as well as different symbols. But the list below is what we used when we made our Jesse Trees so many years ago.

  • 1. Creation: Gen 1:1 - 2:3, symbol - earth

  • 2.  Fall of Adam and Eve: Gen 3:1-24, symbol - apple with bite

  • 3. Noah and the Flood: Gen 6: 11-22; Gen 7:17 - 8:3; Gen 9:8-17, symbol -  ark

  • 4. Tower of Babel: Gen 11:1-9, symbol - tall tower

  • 5. Promise to Abraham: Gen 12:1-7; Gen 15:1-6, symbol - dark sky with stars

  • 6. Abraham and Isaac: Gen 22:1-18, symbol - ram

  • 7. Joseph: Gen 37:1-4; 12-36, symbol - colorful coat

  • 8. Jacob: Gen 28:1-5, 10-22, symbol - ladder

  • 9. God calls Moses: Ex 2:1-10, 23-24; Ex 3; Ex 4:1-20, symbol - bush with flames

  • 10. Passover: Ex 12:1-39, symbol - door frame with blood

  • 11. God feeds His people: Ex 16:2-36; John 6:30-35, 48-51, symbol - manna in basket

  • 12. Moses and the Law: Ex 20:1-21, symbol - stone tablets

  • 13. Battle of Jericho: Joshua 6:1-20, symbol - trumpet

  • 14. Ruth: Ruth 1:1-18; 2:1-13; 3:1-11; 4:13-16, symbol - grain sheaf

  • 15. God Calls Samuel: 1 Sam 3:1-21, symbol - bed

  • 16. David: 1 Sam 16:1-23, symbol - harp

  • 17. Solomon's Wisdom: 1 Kings 3:3-28, symbol - crown

  • 18.  Elijah and the Prophets of Baal: 1 Kings 18:17-39, symbol - wet altar with fire

  • 19. Isaiah: Is 6:1-13, symbol - tongs with hot coal

  • 20. Exile: 2 Chron 36:11-21; Jer 31:31-34, symbol - stalks of grain

  • 21. Zachariah and Elizabeth: Luke 1:5-25, symbol - altar

  • 22. Mary and the Angel: Luke 1:26-38, symbol - white rose

  • 23. Joseph: Matt 1:18-25, symbol - carpenter's tools, saw, hammer

  • 24. Birth of Messiah: Luke 2:1-20, symbol - manger

  • 25. Worship: Matt 2:1-12, symbol - star

So, recently, when I began to mull over a blog post on this topic I searched online. Oh my goodness! What a wealth of information there is! And so much of it free. I marvel at the generosity of people, so willing to share. Just do a simple google search...Jesse Tree...and see what you come up with.

If you've never done a Jesse Tree I urge you to consider it. There are devotionals for all ages, from the youngest of children to adults.  There are websites with everything you need to make one and other sources where they can be ordered, complete with all the work done, and ready to go.

Below are a few links that should be more than enough to get you started.

Amazon has a number of books some complete with patterns.

Etsy has kits with everything you need for a Jesse Tree.

Here is another list of Bible readings and symbols, some different than the ones we used.

Here are some free downloadable full color patterns that can be printed onto card stock and hung on the tree.

While I won't have an actual Jesse Tree this year I do plan to follow the Bible readings beginning December 1. The years that a Jesse Tree were a part of our Christmas celebrations were very meaningful and I hope you are able to do one with your family this year.

It's so easy to lose Jesus in the hustle and bustle of the season but a Jesse Tree is a daily reminder of what Christmas is really all about.


  1. Your friend did a wonderful job on the ornaments! Thanks for sharing about the Jesse Tree.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Karen. I hope you're inspired to make a Jesse Tree this year.

  3. I'm going to have Liberty make her own this year; she'll be 14 this Christmas season! Trying to decided, though, if she should make one each day, or the whole thing before the season begins!

    1. Hi Joey...So nice that you stopped by! How can she be 14? That's not possible. It might be nice to have it all done ahead of time or at least partly done so there's less chance of it falling by the wayside once December arrives. What a great idea of having her do her own.


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