The Jesse Tree

But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. Isaiah 11:1

Part One of Three

So what exactly is a Jesse Tree?

Well, it’s simply a tree decorated with ornaments that tell the story of Jesus’ ancestors and of the events leading to Jesus’ birth. The name is taken from Isaiah 11:1,”But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (Jesse, you’ll remember is the father of King David.) During Advent, one ornament is hung on the tree each day. You can read an accompanying scriptural passage or just say a line or two about the meaning of the ornament.

From :

THE STORY OF THE JESSE TREE Jesse was the father of the great King David of the Old Testament. He is often looked upon as the first person in the genealogy of Jesus.

In Church art a design developed showing the relationship of Jesus with Jesse and other biblical personages. This design showed a branched tree growing from a reclining figure of Jesse. The various branches had pictures of other Old and New Testament figures who were ancestors of Jesus. At the top of the tree were figures of Mary and Jesus. This design was used mostly in stained glass windows in some of the great medieval cathedrals of Europe. The Cathedral of Chartres (which was dedicated in 1260) has a particularly beautiful Jesse Tree window.

Interestingly, there is not one set of “right” Jesse tree symbols. You can do a search for them on the internet and in books, but most lists will vary in some way. If you want to start a Jesse Tree for your family, pick a list that appeals to you. Many of them have scriptural readings associated with each symbol. Or combine lists to make it unique to your family.

Ornaments can be anything you want – purchased or found items or you can craft some or all of them yourself. Fun foam, sculpey clay, felt- anything that works for you.  You could even print out pictures from the internet and tape them to the wall in a tree shape.

The Jesse Tree is so much more than a count-down to Christmas.   It is the telling of the story of God’s love and the promise of the Savior.  If you’re looking for a way to really emphasize the holiness of Christmas, the Jesse Tree can be a simple but effective tool.  While I think that the Jesse Tree is primarily a Catholic thing, there is no reason that other Christian denominations can’t start this fun tradition.

In Part 2 of my Jesse Tree Series, I’ll talk about the Jesse Tree Craft Swap that I am hosting, along with information on how to organize your own swap and some valuable lessons that I learned.

More information about the Jesse Tree Swap here: Jesse Tree Craft Swap

See the completed Jesse Tree Ornaments here: Jesse Tree Ornaments

More Mac and Cheese, please!


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