The Jesse Tree – Stories of Our Ancestors in Faith
Advent is coming up fast, and I have two more sets of Jesse Tree ornaments to make for my daughters and their families.
The Jesse Tree is a devotional that introduces children to the stories of the Old Testament. Jesse was the father of King David, and a prophecy in Isaiah predicted that his descendant would be the Messiah.
The Jesse Tree shows the relationship between Jesus and other people from Biblical history. It was a favourite subject for stained glass windows in mediaeval cathedrals. Most modern Jesse Trees start even further back – to the Fall of Man, or even to the Creation.
Here’s what I wrote to read to the two grandchildren who lived with us when they were five and four:
“As we prepare for Christmas, we remember how God prepared the world for the birth of Jesus.
Each day in Advent (the weeks before Christmas), we tell a story about people and events from the beginning of the world until Jesus was born. The stories help us to understand God’s plan for the world and for people.
Each day, we hang an ornament on the Jesse Tree. When we see the ornament, it helps us to remember the story.”
In our house, we start with a small Christmas tree, though a bare branch is more traditional (and that’s what I’ll use in the ones that I’m making). We put it up on the first Sunday of Advent, and we tell the children the story of the tree:
“Today, we start planning for Christmas, which seems like a long time away – four whole weeks. Sometimes, it’s hard to be patient, and to wait for something wonderful. But it’s also fun to plan, and to help things happen step by step.
God’s plan for Christmas took a lot longer than four weeks. God started planning for Christmas right back at the beginning of the world.
The Jesse Tree helps us to learn about God’s plan. The tree is green, which symbolises life, and things growing from small beginnings. God’s plan for the world started with two people, and grew to be for all people. Often, during the years, God could find only one person who would say “Yes” to His Plan. God’s plan was like a tree with dead branches, but a growing branch that lives and is strong.
God kept preparing the world, until at last there was a person to be Jesus’ mother, and a place for Jesus to be born, and to grow to bring us all home to God.”
The name Jesse Tree comes from the book of Isaiah in the Bible. Isaiah said:
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” (Isaiah 11: 1)
Jesse was the father of King David, and David was the many times great-grandfather of Mary and Joseph – Jesus is the shoot from the stump and the branch from the root of Jesse.”
Each day through Advent, we tell a story, add a symbol to the tree, and say prayers together.
Over the last five years, I’ve collected some beautiful ornaments, a few each year – an apple for the Fall, a string of stars for the promise to Abraham, a silver harp for David, and a crown for Solomon. One year, we grew wheat and made a small sheaf to put on the tree to symbolise the story of Joseph in Egypt. Another year, we learnt to weave and the first thing we wove was a shawl for Naomi. We have a lion with a deep growl, a rather large whale, and a ram made from pipe cleaners and real lambs wool.
One year (when the children were small), I paraphrased and printed the stories, and the children illustrated them. Another year, I took photographs, and the children wrote their favourite part of the story alongside.
They are now old enough to read the stories for themselves from their own Bibles, and this will be the first Christmas since they moved away from us. The Jesse Tree they’ve grown up with will still be here in Advent, marking off the days – and I’m making a set of felt symbols to give them for their own home – three sets, in fact; one for each of set of grandchildren.
I hope we’ve started a tradition that will carry on down the generations. And I’m confident that, in teaching our grandchildren the stories of those great men and women who were part of God’s plan of salvation and in praying with them, we’re cultivating the soil for strong roots in the Faith.
This article is by a “Guest Writer” at “Catholicism Pure & Simple“. They have a wonderful blog full of helpful advice and information. Check it out!
Catholic teachers can use this 4catholiceducators.com resource to incorporate the Jesse Tree into their classrooms.
Parents can also print the patterns and make the ornaments with their children. Just click HERE to get the template.
However, if you are pressed for time, you can always just order them. Zazzle offers a great selection of collectible ornaments.