Our Happy Homestead Christmas Tradition: The Jesse Tree

At the end of a hard day’s work of tree trimming and gopher trapping, last weekend, we took some time to set up our annual “Jesse Tree”.  It’s a tradition that goes back about five years, now, in our family, and signifies the beginning of the Advent season in our home.

The tradition of the Jesse Tree came to our house, all those years ago,  as I was looking for a way to make Christmas more than just a one day event in our home.

“Christmas is a day to celebrate our Lord’s birth”, I thought.  “Yet, with all of the business of opening gifts, traveling, and visiting with family, I feel like we skip right over the very thing that makes Christmas Christmas!”

So, to the internet I turned, looking for ways to extend the Christmas season.  That is when I first heard about the Jesse Tree:  an Advent tree anticipating the coming of Christmas — exactly what I was looking for — a way of tracing God’s love, patience, and grace across the centuries that climaxes in the birth of Jesus Christ:  a simple way to help retell the story of God’s faithfulness over 4000 years of history to our family during the Advent season.

Starting sometime around the end of November, every night, when we “do the Jesse Tree”, we read a portion of Scripture from the Bible, starting in Genesis with creation, and ending in the book of John with Christ’s purpose on earth; we spend some time talking about the reading, and then place a corresponding ornament on the tree.

I have a simple, but distinct box where I keep all of the unique ornaments that we use for our Jesse Tree.  After five years, I still do not have all of the ornaments needed to tell the entire story.  But, this is part of the fun with this tree — every year we keep adding to it and get to tell more of the story! We  have ornaments for the beginning and end of the story, and some of the more obscure stories in the middle we have yet to tell.  To date, we have over half of the stories covered.   Most of the ornaments are purchased, but there are some that we have made by hand.  It’s a fun family project, during Christmas time, to head out to the mall or favorite box store and search for ornaments, or items we can make into ornaments, that are still on the list…

When we started this tradition, the children were still in their elementary years, so we used a Children’s Bible or flannel graph, with lots of pictures, to tell the stories, and asked them simple recall questions, regarding the people, places, and events of the story after we were finished reading.  Now, that they are in jr. high, high school, and college, we all take turns reading from our own Bibles, and answer more open-ended questions, like, “What impressed you most about this story and why?” or “What is the significance of this event in history?”  I’m really enjoying listening to the interesting and mature answers that they are giving.  Some of them come up with great questions that spawn further discussion and challenge us to look even further into our Bibles  for answers.

a rain drop, representing the story of Noah and the flood

The Jesse Tree has been a tremendous teaching tool over the years.   The children all know what each special ornament represents and, I’m sure,  can tell you every story behind each one.  I love that God’s Word has been hidden inside of all of their hearts — its a knowledge and truth I hope they always cling to.   We have six of the same ornament for every story – one for each person in our family – that way, when the kids grow up and move out, they will have their own Jesse Tree ornament collection to take with them to their new home.  What fun it will be to watch them carry on the tradition with their own families!

Click here for more information about the Jesse Tree, and for a table of Scripture readings and suggested ornaments.

What are some of your family’s Christmas traditions?

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