Our family started the Jesse Tree Christmas tradition about three years ago when I was asked to review Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. The experience was so incredible that we repeat it every year.
What is a Jesse Tree?
The idea of the Jesse Tree begins in the Bible, specifically in Isaiah 11:1-10 which reads:
There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.
“And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious.”
Each day of Advent (between December 1st and December 25th), your family reads a passage that leads you through the story of God’s amazing love and plan from Creation to the free gift of salvation.
During this special time each evening , we consider the meaning of the passage and application to our lives. Then, we pray, and hang the themed ornament on our Jesse Tree.
How to Hang Jesse Tree Ornaments
When preparing for a Jesse Tree Advent, you will need somewhere to hang your ornaments, whether on your regular Christmas tree or in another spot.
The first year we traversed the Jesse Tree Advent, we used a simple cardboard tree and printable Jesse Tree ornaments. Each night, one fo the children would tape a paper ornament to the cardboard tree.
Now, we use a branch – which becomes our first ornament – as a place to hang each day’s ornament Our family makes an adventure of finding a branch with enough knobs and stems for hanging all of our Jesse Tree ornaments.
Jesse Tree Ornament List with Readings
Each Jesse Tree ornament is based on a passage in the Bible that walks your family through the genealogy of Jesus. It’s a fascinating study of how the Bible is all connected and can be eye-opening for anyone – child or adult – who is unfamiliar with HIStory.
Depending on the faith background, there appears to be a difference between the traditional Catholic Jesse Tree ornaments and other Jesse Tree traditions. [See the traditional Jesse Tree order here.]
Since we use Unwrapping the Greatest Gift as our devotional, this is the order of our Jesse Tree ornament list with the suggested readings:
December 1st – Jesse’s stump – Isaiah 11:1-10
December 2nd – Globe – Genesis 1
December 3rd – Apple / Tree – Genesis 3
December 4th – Noah / Rainbow – Genesis 6
December 5th – Abraham’s Tent / Camels – Genesis 12
December 6th – Isaac / Baby Footprints – Genesis 21
December 7th – Ram – Genesis 22
December 8th – Jacob / Ladder – Genesis 28
December 9th – Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors – Genesis 50
December 10th – Moses / Ten Commandments – Deuteronomy 5
December 11th – Rahab / Red Rope – Joshua 2
December 12th – Ruth / Wheat – Ruth 1
December 13th – David / Crown – 1 Samuel 16
December 14th – Light / Sun – Isaiah 9
December 15th – Elijah / Bonfire – 1 Kings 18
December 16th – Jonah / Fish – Jonah 1
December 17th – Bethlehem – Micah 5
December 18th – Esther / Scepter – Esther 4
December 19th – Watchtower – Habakkuk 2
December 20th – Zechariah and Elizabeth – Luke 1:1-17
December 21st – John / Scalloped Shell – Matthew 3
December 22nd – Mary / Heart – Luke 1:28-38
December 23rd – Joseph / Tools – Matthew 1:19-25
December 24th – Jesus / Manger – Luke 2:1-8
December 25th – Shepherds / Star – Luke 2:8-20
Our Jesse Tree Ornaments
Two years ago, I decided to upgrade our Jesse Tree ornaments from the simple printables to ornaments that might become family heirlooms.
After reading the passages and looking around on Pinterest, I decided to use a combination of storebought ornaments we already had and make several to fill in the gaps.
I have thought several times about using a wood slice but our children love picking out a broken branch so much.
Searching the internet, I found a picture of the Earth and printed it.
Using a clear, plastic globe ornament, I added the earth picture and confetti to represent the creation.
Apple / Tree
From eons ago, we had a few apple Christmas ornaments. I selected one that looked aged but had no special sentimentality and painted it a solid red to cover the design underneath.
Noah / Rainbow
Long before I married my husband, I collected Noah’s ark nicknacks. So this ornament was plucked from our tree. But one day I might replace it with a simple rainbow created from polymer clay.
Abraham’s Tent / Camels
To represent Abraham’s visitor, I used a stiff piece of cardboard to create a tent shape and then covered it with layers of brightly colored paper.
I searched the internet for a camel silhouette and traced it on to black construction paper before cutting it out and gluing it over my tent.
Finally, since the promise involves making Abraham’s offspring as vast as the stars in the sky, I thought it was symbolic to add a piece of star confetti to the top.
Isaac / Baby Footprints
Using another portion of stiff cardboard, I cut a heart and then searched for baby footprints.
After tracing the footprints on to the cardboard, I used glue to apply a layer of glitter to the feet. After that was dry, I spread glue around the footprints and sprinkled a different shade of glitter to set it off.
This ornament looks more complicated that it was. After cutting a ram body from the cardboard, I also cut out a pair of horns.
Using a black crayon, I colored the face of the ram and the hooves.
The horns were glued to the head on each side and then I unrolled a cotton ball to cover the body.
Jacob / Ladder
I have never made a ladder before and this one is not my favorite but it certainly works for the purpose.
Using three slender sticks, I fashioned a ladder by cutting one into pieces and then attaching the small pieces as slats to the longer pieces using thread.
This Jesse Tree ornament was the easiest for me to create since I had a piece of brightly colored scrapbook paper, gold ribbon, and floral wire.
Folding the scrapbook paper in half, I cut a coat shape with the top edge (the neckline) on the fold so it would not be cut. Then, I glued a short length of gold ribbon as a sash.
To create a hanger, I simply cut a length of floral wire and shaped it into a coat hanger.
The coat rests on the wire hanger.
Moses / Ten Commandments
Using grey construction paper, I cut the tablet shapes and then scribbled little marks using a marker.
Finally, I glued the tablets together and punched a hole for hanging.
Rahab / Red Ribbon
While this was a challenge, I knew what I wanted to create… the image of Jericho with the red ribbon trailing from Rahab’s window.
The tower is a cardboard (cough… toilet paper) tube. To create the stonework, I drew brick shapes on a piece of grey paper and then cut it to fit the tube.
Once attached to the tube with glue, I punched a small, square hole to represent the window.
The ribbon is taped to the inside of the tube and comes through the window, twisting around the tube and taped under the bottom edge.
Ruth / Wheat
This Jesse Tree ornament is my least favorite and I welcome your ideas for replacing it.
After searching the internet, I found an image of wheat and printed it. The image is glued to a piece of cardboard that I cut into a circle.
Because I was not satisfied, I coated part of the image with glitter. It didn’t help but the ornament works for now.
David / Crown
To represent King David, I pulled together some beads and silver chenille stems.
By working with two parallel chenille stems, I was able to thread the beads with both strands. The beads give the crown structure and make it pretty.
Light / Sun
In the middle fo creating this ornament to represent the great Light, I shifted gears.
To start, I poured some paint into the ornament but quickly scrapped that idea. Instead, I took thin pieces of orange and yellow construction paper and curled it around a pencil, pulling it tightly so the curls would stay in the paper.
Then, I inserted the paper into the ornament.
Elijah / Bonfire
To create a multidimensional fire, I cut flames from construction paper with a few being the same shape. The pieces that are the same were glued together except for the ends where I curled the paper over a pencil away from the center.
Then, I arranged all of the flames together to create a cohesive fire.
The twigs are bound together with a thin piece of wire which also pierces through the flames and holds the fire to the twigs.
Jonah / Fish
Another quick search of the internet pulled up a picture of Jonah in the belly of the whale.
After printing the picture, I was stumped for a way to display it and decided to create a tube from the image. I then inserted the picture tube into a clear, plastic ornament.
Using the same colors from Abraham’s tent, I cut an old city skyline and glued it against the impression of a sunset fashioned by layering the papers.
The entire piece is wrapped around another cardboard tube.
Esther / Scepter
The scepter is a family favorite and I love how it turned out.
Using floral wire and beads, I twisted, laced, and fashioned a scepter. Then, I gave the entire thing a quick coat of glue and glitter to hide the fact that the pieces underneath do not match. But you wouldn’t know if I had not told you.
I will confess that this ornament is often confused with Bethlehem since they are very similar and made almost the same way… minus the cardboard tube.
Zechariah and Elizabeth
Another confession… this is an idea I saw on Pinterest but personalized it with the materials I had.
This Jesse Tree ornament has a backing of thin cardboard with cut construction paper overlain to give depth. The eyes are simply drawn making the entire ornament easier than it looks.
John / Scalloped Shell
Living on the Gulf Coast, we have a collection of sea-themed ornaments. This particular ornament was given to us by a church friend but would be easy to replicate.
Start with two scalloped shells and use hot glue to attach them to one another.
Coat the shells with a thin layer of clear glue and then sprinkle with glitter.
Mary / Heart
Another item snatched from our Christmas tree, this glass-spun heart was part of a set that I purchased our first Christmas after getting married because they were inexpensive and would help us decorate our barren little Christmas tree.
Joseph / Tools
There is not a lot available for Joseph, but upon searching the internet, I discovered this lovely picture of Joseph and a young Jesus working together.
Instead of inserting this image into a clear, plastic ornament, I glued it to the outside so that it would show through. To give the ornament a more finished look, I then cut strips of brown construction paper to cover the image on the outside.
Because the poignancy was tremendous, I added three nails to the inside of the ornament.
Jesus / Manger
We have created many variation of the manger as Christmas ornaments and I was lacking any new ideas. So I plucked this “believe” ornament from our Christmas tree to represent Jesus.
One day, I will replace it.
Shepherds / Star
I hated this star on our Christmas tree. It’s true.
The star was given to me back in 1992 by my manager at my first job. She wasn’t a Christian, didn’t like me, didn’t include me in employee gatherings, and made me work on Sundays even when it was in my contract to be off. I knew the star was just something she gave me because she felt like she had to give me something. But I kept it because I have never been able to toss a Christmas ornament.
When I needed a star Jesse Tree ornament, I hesitated before taking this one from our Christmas tree.
That’s when it occurred to me that there was no better option because this star epitomizes the Shepherds for me… the outcast… the unwanted… the persecuted… and the ones who received the first invitation to the coming of Jesus, our Savior.
What was once to me an ugly star became beautiful with its new purpose.
But that is what the Jesse Tree is all about. Tracing the lineage of Jesus and seeing God’s plan span thousands of years is a reminder that He was, He is, and He always will be reaching out to us and offering the free gift of salvation available by His grace.
Not every day will be easy. Not every day will be fun. But every day He is weaving His plan.
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