The Jesse Tree

A Jesse Tree is either a real tree or a representation of one, decorated with symbols which mark the journey from the creation of the world to the birth of Christ. The symbols represent the ancestral characters depicted in the Jewish scriptures and the gospels.

The ‘tree’ is a common symbol throughout scripture, most memorably featured in the fall of Adam and Eve. Jesus used images of trees, vines and branches to explain the power and life of God. Jesse was the father of King David.

Thus, in its most original form the Jesse tree illustrates Jesus’ human royal lineage, from King David down to Mary. It shows the fulfillment of God’s promise of a miracle to the childless Abraham and Sarah, that although both of them were nearing 100 years old, “kings of peoples shall come from her”. (Genesis 17: 16, NRSV).

A Jesse tree is especially useful for helping children to enter into the spirit of Advent, a spirit of expectant, joyful longing for the God who loves and saves us. It is an engaging way to impart knowledge of our salvation history and the momentous place of Jesus’ birth within it.

Thus while the Jesse Tree is about the journey of the people of God, it also sheds light on our own life journey. It connects us more deeply to scripture, through which Christ never fails to reveal himself to us here and now.

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD--
3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
Isaiah 11:1-4 (NIV)

A branch is a sign of new life and new beginnings. Jesus was a descendent of King David and Christians believe that Jesus is this new branch.

The first Jesse trees were large carvings, tapestries or even stained glass windows put in Churches that helped illiterate people to learn about the Bible from creation to the Christmas Story.

Directions to make a Jesse Tree

Suggested symbols for tree ornaments:

Bible Story: Where it is in the Bible: Symbol:
Creation Genesis 1 The earth
Adam and Eve /
Garden of Eden
Genesis 2:4 - 3:24 A tree with fruit or an apple
Noah & the Flood Genesis 6:9 - 9:17 A rainbow
God's promise
to Abraham
Genesis 12:1-7 & 15:1-6 A tent
Isaac Genesis 22:1-18 A ram
Jacob's Ladder Genesis 28:10-19 A ladder
Joseph's Coat Genesis 37 & 50 A multicolored coat or robe
Moses Exodus 2:1 - 4:20 A burning bush
Israelites and
the Passover
Exodus 12:1-42 A lamb
The 10 Commandments Exodus 19:1 - 20:20 Two stone tablets
Joshua and the
fall of Jericho
Joshua 6:1-20 A ram's horn trumpet
Ruth Ruth (Whole Book) A sheaf of corn
King David 1 Samuel 16:1-3 A six pointed 'Star of David'
Solomon's Temple 1 Kings 6 The temple
Elijah and
Baal's Priests
1 Kings 18:16-39 A bonfire
Isaiah's 'Jesse'
Isaiah 11:1-11 A tree stump with a single branch
growing from it
Jonah and the Whale Jonah (Whole Book) A whale
John the Baptist Matthew 3:13-17 A scallop shell
Mary Luke 1:26-38 A white lily
Elizabeth Luke 1:39-56 A mother and child
Zechariah Luke 1:57-80 A pencil and tablet
Joseph Matthew 1:19-25 A carpenter's hammer
The Shepherds Luke 2:8-20 A fluffy sheep!
The Wisemen Matthew 2:1-12 A gold star or the
three gifts or three crowns
Jesus Luke 2:1-8 A baby in a manger


Info from why Christmas, Catholic family and Catholic culture web sites.