On File

The Jesse Tree

thejessetreeA Christmas tradition to share with your family.

This year, I’ll start a new tradition with my family—The Jesse Tree. It’s the story of Jesus’ family tree, beginning in the Old Testament. Hopefully, making the tree will be the source of years of memories for my children and they’ll pass the tradition along.

Isaiah 11:1 says, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”

Jesse was the father of the biblical King David. But what or, better yet, who, is the fruit? Jesus.

As with many families, Jesus’ family had its flaws. Bible stories share these less–than–perfect moments from the generations leading up to His birth. The beauty behind the Jesse Tree comes from its relatable, familiar, and genuine story. It also has the most incredible ending—the gift of Jesus.

Although the practice of making Jesse Trees began many years ago, it was a new concept to me. The more I researched it, the more intrigued I became by it. I learned the purpose of a Jesse tree is to unfold the story of Jesus’ family and to learn more about them each day as the calendar moves closer to Christmas.

This advent tradition can be fun because families get involved by making unique Jesse Trees. For instance, branches can be created on a fridge or put in a pot. Various materials can be used to decorate and personalize a mini tree. Ornaments can be purchased, made, or printed from Internet sites.

Each day as the story progresses, you can hang the appropriate ornament on the tree. Other options for creating Jesse Trees can be found on Pinterest. Numerous ornament tutorials, scripture verse listings, and pinables are available.

We know the Christmas story. But who could imagine our God, who is so big and great, would choose a baby to bring the greatest gift to humankind?

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”
After some research, I purchased two books on The Jesse Tree by Ann Voskamp, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas (2014, Tyndale) and her adult devotional book, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas (2013, Tyndale), which begins on December 1 and finishes on December 25.

The first book has beautiful illustrations for each day, along with Scripture, a short story, discussion questions, and suggested family activities. The questions are kid–friendly and provide opportunity for conversations on faith, love for God, and the application of the Bible in our lives. It’s a great conversation starter to share with family or friends who are new to the story of Jesus.

The scripture references in Voskamp’s devotional book are the same as the family edition, but go deeper into Scripture. The devotional also encourages daily action and includes inspirational quotes from classic theologians, pastors, and other Christians. Reflective questions for personal growth are also included. Both books offer free printable ornaments.

Christmas is the perfect time to reflect, engage in discussion, and bring traditions into the family fold. The tree represents hope, renewal, and faith. God weaves His gift to us through these stories.

Here is an excerpt from The Greatest Gift.
“Without the genealogy of Christ, the limbs of His past, the branches of His family, the love story of His heart that has been coming for you since before the beginning—how does Christmas and its tree stand? Its roots would be sheared. Its meaning would be stunted. The arresting pause of the miracle would be lost.”

This Christmas season, I hope families will share the wonderful story of Jesus with friends and people who don’t know Christ. I also hope The Jesse Tree becomes part of your Christmas tradition.

As we anticipate Christ, celebrate Christmas, and await His coming, we remember when His story actually began—from Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning” to Luke 2:11, “The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem….”

— Joanna Polarek is the Spiritual Life Development (SLD) resource development coordinator. She manages each project and occasionally contributes to SLD’s print and online presence.

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