'Jesse Tree' heralds Jesus

History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time;

it illumines reality, vitalizes memory,

and provides guidance in daily life.


“Will you grab that long, skinny box from the back of the car for me?” I asked my son this week as I unloaded groceries.

I knew he’d be curious. He’d look at the picture of the Christmas tree on the outside of the packaging and ask questions. It was the perfect set up for a conversation I wanted to have with him and a chance for me to reveal my new plan.

“So you got another Christmas tree? What about the big one we always put in the corner of the living room?” He was right on the spot with his rapid-fire question and I was reminded of a practical life lesson: Change is best introduced as an addition to, rather than a replacement of, things you’re comfortable doing.

I explained that I thought we’d set up this modest-sized, artificial Christmas tree in the living room. We’d refer to it as our “Jesse Tree” and it would become a new aspect to our well-established advent activities that begin the Sunday four weeks before Christmas Day. The word means, “coming,” and Christians worldwide use the time to prepare and anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth.

For years we have talked about the advent season. It was especially helpful when my kids were little. Waiting for Christmas Day seemed like an eternity and very early on we interlocked paper rings and hung them in the kitchen. Each day one ring was removed and the visual helped them understand the passage of time.

When the kids entered elementary school we introduced an advent calendar that included small books. It helped that each day before Christmas my kids took turns pulling a tiny book out of it’s holder to read a portion of the Christmas story. Some advent calendars make use of tiny doors. Behind those doors can be found trinkets or pieces of candy.

Setting up a Jesse Tree is another way to count down Christmas, but it comes with a bonus: the lineage of Christ and life lessons from the people and events leading to His birth make for great discussion and learning. And it’s a whole lot of fun. A prolific amount of materials to read and download are available by Googling “Jesse Tree.”

Jesse trees date back to the middle ages and even some ancient cathedrals have Jesse Tree designs in their stained glass windows. All are are inspired by the the Old Testament verse in Isaiah that says, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a branch will bear fruit.” To clarify this reference, turn to the book of Matthew in the New Testament you’ll learn that Jesus’ family tree includes relatives not only directly related to King David, but clear back to Abraham. Jesse was King David’s father and looking back on all this history, you will learn what lessons (the fruit) that was born from their lives.

A Jesse Tree can be made by hanging ornaments onto a “tree” made from wood dowels placed into a stand, by attaching fabric ornaments onto a banner or quilt, or by hanging ornaments onto a traditional Christmas tree as we will do this year. With a list of the daily devotions and suggested symbols for the stories, I’ve been combing area stores for ornaments. I’ll place them in a basket under the tree until it’s time to hang each one.

Starting tomorrow, we will take a few moments each day to read through a short story, talk briefly about the lesson, and hang an ornament onto the Jesse Tree. Each lesson will walk us chronologically through the Bible, highlighting historical moments that lead to the birth of Jesus. It’s a welcome new addition to our holiday celebrations. Join us! If you’d like a copy of the materials I’ll be using, email me at with your request.

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