“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and
from his roots a bud shall blossom.” – Isaiah 11:1
Since we’ve started having a Jesse Tree during Advent, I can’t imagine not having one. It has added such focus, and a sense of peace to what can be the most chaotic time of year.
The Jesse Tree is a small tree (we use a tree cut out of felt, but many families use a miniature tree, or a branch tucked into a pot) that is decorated throughout Advent with ornaments that trace the lineage of Jesus all the way from creation to His birth. It shows, in a simple way, God’s plan of salvation throughout history.
This tradition has blessed us in ways we never imagined. And there’s the added bonus of M really getting it. The cuddled up story time, the hands-on ornaments, the little Advent box we open each evening (it contains the ornament for the day and the devotional card)… all of this appeals to a child’s heart. I am amazed when M knows these stories at other times of the year, and realize what an impact the Jesse Tree has had on him.
Sometimes, after a particularly trying day, we light a little votive candle to help set a reflective mood as we prepare ourselves to focus on the “reason for the season”. As this time for the Jesse Tree is set aside every single evening during Advent, we find that our focus throughout the day is changed too… all the superfluous stuff is more easily set aside because our hearts are in tune with what truly matters. (Knowing how special this time can be really motivates me to have all my gift shopping done before Advent begins. Some years I’m better at this than others, but having even some of it done makes for a more peaceful Advent.)
This year, Advent begins on Sunday, November 27th. There are 4 full weeks – 28 days - of Advent this year. That’s the maximum number of days Advent can have.
Because the number of days during Advent changes from year to year, some years all of the ornaments and readings will be used, and other years some will be skipped. In our family we use the ornaments and readings for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Sundays as our “optional” ornaments… these are extra ornaments that relate to the season of Advent (Light, Joy and Hope, Peace) but aren’t directly related to the ancestral line from which Jesus came. There are some prophets included in the Jesse Tree also, and in years where we need to skip more than the three ornaments mentioned above, we start picking these guys off. :) For those years, we are most likely to skip Ezekiel, Daniel, or Elijah… we like to include Isaiah each year. I have nothing against the other guys… we love them too! :) But someone’s gotta go when there’s more ornaments than days, right? ;)
To avoid all of this change from year to year, some families pick only 24 ornaments and use these same 24 ornaments every year, beginning their Jesse Tree on December 1st and ending it on Christmas Eve. That is a perfectly fine way of doing it too! There really is no right or wrong way to do this, and if you search online you will see there are many versions of the Jesse Tree. The main thing is to show how God’s plan of salvation was unveiled throughout history and how each person in Jesus’ lineage played an important role in this plan.
Take a look at the packet I’ve put together for this year. You can find it here, or by clicking on the controls in the image at the top of this post. There is a schedule (specific to this year) for the ornaments and Scripture readings, as well as a word or phrase for each day to reflect on (these lead to some wonderful conversations!) and a short prayer for each day.
I’ve changed some things this year to make them better suited for us, and I hope they will work well for your family too. The ornaments can be printed and colored, or use them as templates for felt ornaments, or in any other way you can think of.
Some of the Scripture references on the cards are different this year – I used some that just made more sense to me, and the Annunciation (when Gabriel appeared to Mary) is included this year. I know it really happened about 9 months prior to the birth of Jesus, but it’s an important part of the whole story, I think.
I’m hoping this helps simplify the process of making the Jesse Tree a tradition in your family, and that you will be as richly blessed by it as we have.
As always, feel free to share this link with others (please do!), but do not post it on your own site, sell it, etc. Thank you!