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Have you ever heard of a Jesse Tree?
“Using a Jesse Tree at Advent involves a series of 25 daily scriptures, devotional readings, and symbolic ornaments. Each day’s theme teaches a piece of redemption history, beginning with creation and culminating with the birth of Jesus. It is visual, interactive, and adaptable to all ages. A Jesse Tree is a great way to lead children through the story and build anticipation for Christ’s coming. Of course, we as parents will benefit, too!” – source
I’m going to explain the simple way we do a Jesse Tree each Advent, but before I go any further, I want to pause and say this: My biggest hesitation in writing this post was that someone would read it, sigh, and feel some level of guilt about doing something like this.
You know… the feeling you get when you spend too long on Instagram, or see someone else’s amazing 1 year old birthday party, or whatever.
You are not allowed to read this and experience mommy guilt. Comparison steals joy. I can’t stand it when I fall into doing something out of guilt/ obligation… Nobody likes that feeling. I’ve written about keeping Advent with our children simple and just doing what works for you over in this post.
If a Jesse Tree raises your blood pressure and stresses you out, don’t do it. Instead, read one verse from the Christmas story in Luke 2 each day, or one chapter in John each day, or one story in the Jesus Storybook Bible.
Advent is about reflecting on what Jesus has done, and what He is doing, and what He has promised to do. It’s about taking time to slow down, reflect, pray, and worship the God of the universe who came to us as a little baby – perfect love incarnate.
A Jesse Tree can be an added help for reflecting about Jesus and redemption history, but if it adds stress or becomes the object of our focus, then there’s no point.
Let’s turn our eyes upon Jesus at Christmas, friends! And if this Jesse Tree idea is a helpful symbol for you and/or your kiddos, great! Go for it.
The Basic Idea of a Jesse Tree is this:
- Read one Bible Story/ verse per day that begins with creation (Dec. 1) and ends on Christmas Day with the birth of Jesus.
- Hang an ornament each day that goes along with the verse.
NOTE: There are many different versions of a Jesse Tree, with slightly different verses to go with each day. But, every Jesse Tree focuses on Old Testament prophecies of Jesus’ birth and stories of people in His ancestry.
Jesse Tree Script, Readings, Versions
I did a Jesse Tree ornament exchange with some moms one year (details below), and the hostess made these cool verse cards to coordinate a Bible reading for each day with the ornament we made. The cards list which verses to read on which day of Advent (December 1-25). A mom from the exchange gave them to me to give you, so you can download and print them for free!
There are 4 copies of each card per page because it was made for the exchange. To use them individually, just print all 3 pages, cut each page into quarters, whole punch the top left corner, and tie them together with a piece of yarn or a binder ring. You could give the other copies to a friend or just toss them. My friend laminated them for us. Fancy Schmancy.
The Jesus Storybook Bible Version of a Jesse Tree
Note: a few of my ornaments from my original exchange broke over the years, so we have shifted to using the Jesus Storybook Bible for our readings. Many of my ornaments from the exchange still work, and we’ve filled in the rest to go along with the JSB readings.
There are 24 stories in the Jesus Storybook Bible from Creation to the Birth of Jesus! You can read 1 story per day and hang an ornament to go with it. You can buy handmade ornaments to go with the Bible, make them yourself, or print out these free ones!
Most years, we’re missing 1-2 ornaments and we have to print off the free ones to color. It’s hodgepodge but it works! This doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful, friends.
Where to Get Jesse Tree Ornaments
Like I mentioned, I did an ornament exchange with some moms one year. Each person chose 2 different days and made 12 of those ornaments. Then we all swapped so we got a whole set. Here’s how a friend and I hosted a super last minute ornament exchange party!
If an ornament-exchange-level-of-crafting sounds like torture, here are some other ideas for where to get Jesse Tree Ornaments.
1. Print Ornaments to Color (free)
Here are some free printable patterns that I found from the Reformed Church Press. Letting your kids color them is probably the easiest. There’s one for each day. Here is the original source where I found them. They have a bunch of ideas for how to incorporate them, but I would just keep it simple. Read the Bible story while your kids color them. Hole punch the paper ornament and hang it with some ribbon on your tree. If your kids are epic color-ers and you want to save them for next year, laminate them 🙂 Or just throw them out and do it again next year.
2. Buy a Jesse Tree Ornament coloring kit on Amazon
Buy this Jesse Tree Ornaments Coloring Kit, have your kids cut out and color one each day. This one wins the easy-for-parents award.
3. Etsy Jesse Tree Ornaments
There are also tons of cute completed sets on Etsy! Here are a few:
4. Use The Greatest Gift Version of a Jesse Tree
One Jesse Tree devotional that comes highly recommended is Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas. Some close friends of ours have done this one with their young grade-school and preschool aged children. I personally love the adult version of Ann Voskamp’s Advent devotional, so I’m guessing the family version is good too.
This book comes with all the ornaments & can be used for years to come.
How do You Explain the Jesse Tree to a Child?
It depends on the age of the child.
Toddler – For a toddler, I’d explain very little. Just do it! If you can keep your Jesse Tree activity short & sweet & at the same time each day, the toddler will learn what to expect. Maybe it’s with breakfast or after nap time… Give this activity a name and say it every day. (“Time for Jesse Tree Ornament time.”) Put that day’s ornament & the Bible story out on the table. Read as much as the toddler can sit through while they’re eating a snack. (Feel free to skip paragraphs or paraphrase!) When the reading is done, let the toddler hang the ornament on the tree. I bet after a few days, the toddler will know what to expect and get excited about it even though they don’t really understand the meaning of a Jesse Tree.
You can always say something super simple like, “The Jesse Tree ornaments tell the story of God’s plan to send Jesus to save us from sin.”
Preschooler – For a preschool child, I’d introduce the idea on December 1. “This December, we’re going to celebrate Advent! Advent means ‘coming,’ and it’s a month where we celebrate that Jesus came to earth as a human to save us from sin. To celebrate Advent, we’re going to read from the Bible every day and hang an ornament on the tree that goes with the story. These are called Jesse Tree ornaments because Jesse was one of the great great great great great grandparents of Jesus.”
Elementary School – For an older child, I’d give the same intro as listed under the preschool child’s explanation, but you could go into more detail about the idea of a family tree. Maybe sketch a simple family tree with names in your family to show how their parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc are all in their family’s lineage.
Then you could read from Matthew 1 and show how the Bible traces Jesus’ ancestry back all the way to people they might recognize in scripture – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob… Ruth, Obed, Jesse, King David.
Explain that you’re going to read one story per day to remember what happened in the history of God’s people leading up to Jesus coming. As the Jesus Storybook Bible subtitle puts it – “every story whispers his name.”
Where to Put your Jesse Tree Ornaments
We’ve always just put our ornaments right on our regular tree each morning or evening.
Some people I know have a separate little tree or some sticks in a vase that they hang their ornaments on. There is no right or wrong way to do this! Here are a few Jesse Tree ideas that popped up in a quick internet search.