What is a Jesse Tree?
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1
You’re probably familiar with this oft-quoted verse from Isaiah. But do you know why we talk about it at Christmas? After hearing about God’s wrath—“See, the Lord, the Lord Almighty, will lop off the boughs with great power...He will cut down the forest thickets with an ax” (Isaiah 10:33-34)—when it feels like sin has won and all hope is lost, we are given the good news of a Savior. Out of loss comes new life, out of sin comes redemption.
We spend the season of Advent waiting in anticipation for the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God sent to redeem us from our sins. We know the story of Jesus’ birth from the gospels. We know the narrative details of the virgin Mary, the inn that was full, the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men that traveled from afar. The tradition of the Jesse Tree adds to the bigger story, giving us a fuller picture of the importance of the birth of Jesus during the Advent season.
Isaiah’s prophecy continues: “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10). The Jesse Tree represents not only our personal gift of salvation, but a coming together of all believers. “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat” (Isaiah 11:6). The story of Jesus Christ is both personal and public; it’s the story of our own salvation and that of our brothers and sisters around the world. The Jesse Tree helps us understand the awesome implications of what it means to be a Christian.
Today, we follow the tradition of decorating a physical Jesse Tree to commemorate God’s gift of salvation to us through Jesus Christ. A Jesse Tree doesn’t have to be a real tree—it can be a small Christmas tree, a plant, or a drawing on a poster board, anything that reminds you of new life. Each day, we decorate our Jesse Tree with an ornament that symbolizes a different Bible story, starting in the beginning of Genesis and ending with Jesus’ birth. This is the story of Jesus, but it is also the story of us and how we received the most beautiful gift of all: salvation through Jesus Christ. Decorating a Jesse Tree during the busy holiday season can help us shift our focus back to the true meaning of Christmas.
If your family would like to decorate a Jesse Tree this year, check out our special devotional series and craft. It includes a devotion and an ornament to cut out and color each day of December, commemorating the Old Testament prophecies and symbols that lead to the promised Messiah. However you create your Jesse Tree, use each day as a reminder of God’s great love for you, and his Christmas gift to all of us.