Jesse Tree: Introduction and Day 1

Happy first Sunday of Advent!

Today is the first day of Advent! It’s a season which, honestly, I have been looking forward all year. Today, my husband went out with the kids looking for tree trimmings from our cedar tree for our Advent wreath. And, yes, it turned out beautifully… take a look at the wreath they made!

Our Advent wreath!

And I set up the Advent calendar yesterday, complete with candies for all of the kids — and an additional candy for the feast day on December 12. ๐Ÿ™‚

A picture of our Advent calendar. Each sock has a Kiss in it for each of the kids. The official countdown to Christmas has begun! ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh! And did I mention that I’ve opened up my online shop for the next couple of weeks for Advent? So, if you want, you can buy some of the beautiful devotional art books that I’ve made directly from me. Plus, they make lovely gifts! Click here to take a look at the shop, if you would like. ๐Ÿ™‚

Sooooo many books!

So, I am looking forward to a lot this Advent!

But there is something else that I am looking forward to this particular Advent — the Jesse Tree.

What is a Jesse Tree?

The Jesse Tree was part of an old medieval tradition that was once forgotten, but it recently has become popular again. Basically, it draws from the scripture which states: “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”

That bud being Jesus Christ.

And so, the Jesse Tree is a way to look through the Old Testament anew at all the ancestors that came before Jesus Christ. It is a chance to experience the longing and desire for a Savior who can save us from death.

In short: it is a perfect Advent meditation.

In medieval times, the Jesse Tree was simply a pictorial representation with not much scripture reading at all. After all, books were pretty expensive in medieval times! And so, most of the images of Jesse Tree looked something like this:

The Tree of Jesse, by Dutch School, c. 16th century. Private Collection.
The Tree of Jesse, by Dutch School, c. 16th century. Private Collection.

And so, the various kings and other key figures that preceded Christ would might (or might not) be distinctive through what they were holding and other symbolism. But, such an image would evoke the sort of feeling that Christ came from mankind. In particular, Christ came, not only from mankind but from a particular family that had both its virtues and its faults. So, that’s how medieval folks looked at the Jesse Tree!

The Tree of Jesse, c. 1240-50. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California, United States.
The Tree of Jesse, c. 1240-50. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California, United States.

A Modern Celebration of the Jesse Tree

Nowadays, it’s celebrated rather… differently.

First of all, since we can read, we can focus on scripture. And focus on scripture we do! Every day for Advent, there is a new scripture reading that delves into the Old Testament and/or New Testament readings of the period just before Jesus. Also! To make it more palatable, each day has a particular symbol to bring home the story to us and to give us a concrete image to meditate on.

Now, there are approximately five million different versions of Jesse Tree readings to choose from. And this is all right! After all, all the Jesse Tree readings delve into scripture and remind us of mankind’s desire and need for a Savior. But, there is no consistency of what should be read, just so long as it helps remind us of the people that came before Christ.

The other fun thing about modern Jesse Tree? The ornaments! Even the smallest child loves the beautiful ornaments that symbolize the various stories. Plus, it’s a great and highly accessible way to discuss scripture.

And so! The Jesse Tree readings/ornaments that I chose were from here… which is technically a website full of crochet patterns, but apparently she combined her artistry with her faith to make the ornaments, and I absolutely love it. Plus, you have to admit… the crochet ornaments that she designed for the Jesse Tree are cute. Here are a few that I’ve made so far!

Twelve Jesse Tree ornaments! See if you can guess the stories, just from the symbols. ๐Ÿ™‚

And so, for this Advent, I would like to invite you to pray with me the Jesse Tree and my family! ๐Ÿ™‚

Starting with… Day 1!

Day 1 – The Root of Jesse

The symbol is the shoot coming out of the root of Jesse. Here’s the ornament that I made to symbolize the story!

And here is the scripture passage that goes along with it!


Isaiah 11

1But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,and from his roots a bud shall blossom.2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,A spirit of counsel and of strength,a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,3and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.Not by appearance shall he judge,nor by hearsay shall he decide,10On that day,The root of Jesse,set up as a signal for the peoplesโ€”Him the nations will seek out;his dwelling shall be glorious.

And, because you know you love beautiful religious art… here is yet another, gorgeous picture of the Tree of Jesse.

The Tree of Jesse, by Geertgen tot Sint Jans, c. 1500. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Have a blessed day! ๐Ÿ™‚

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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