The Jesse Tree


The Jesse tree is a neat way to help our children see the continuity between the Old and New Testament. All of the Old Testament points forward to Jesus, the centerpiece of human history.

The Jesse tree takes its name from Isaiah 11:1, which says “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a branch will bear fruit.” That stump is David’s line, and the branch refers to Christ.

Historically a Jesse tree was like a family tree for Christ, but today the term refers to a tree of ornaments which remind us of God’s work throughout redemptive history. Typically these ornaments include something to remind us of the Creation, something for the Fall, something for the Flood, and so on. Each night, a new ornament is placed on the Jesse tree, and an appropriate scripture is read.

Our children enjoy this so much, and it has been very beneficial to them to get a sense of the big picture. Now we often use it twice a year…during the Advent season, when the ornaments culminate on Christmas with Christ’s birth, and again during the Easter season when we use a week’s worth of ornaments to talk about the events of Christ’s betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection.

Some of our ornaments are home-made, some are re-purposed toys and some are actual Christmas ornaments.

This picture shows some of our ornaments…the chocolate coins to remind us of Judas, a lego man in a clay “basket” for baby Moses, a piece of paper cut in the shape of the Ten Commandments, a beaded box with a perfume sample for the woman who anointed Jesus, a playmobil knife for Abraham and Isaac, a lamb to remind us of the Passover, three wise men for Jesus’ birth, a globe for creation, Noah’s ark, a snake for the Fall and a star for God’s covenant with Abraham.

You can also Download colored paper ornaments for your Jesse tree online and print them on paper or cardstock. Here is another site with printable paper ornaments and instructions for various kinds of trees. If you don’t have room for a tabletop tree, there are several alternatives. Some people draw a tree on posterboard and attach their ornaments with tape or velcro to the poster. Many people place a large branch in a bucket of sand and hang the ornaments from that. For you crafty ladies, there are also patterns you can purchase online to sew a Jesse tree wall-hanging or to cross-stitch or embroider the ornaments.

Here is a list of possible scriptures with ideas for corresponding ornaments. Pray about which scriptures to use, and be creative about finding appropriate ornaments. Start out on a small scale and you can add to your Jesse tree from year to year. If you want to do a Jesse tree, but the season is too busy to gather everything together, start next Easter. You can gather ornaments over the next few months and try it out during the Easter season. Then you’ll be all ready to go next Christmas!

The Creation, Genesis 1, a Globe ornament
The Fall, Genesis 3, a toy snake
Noah and the Flood, Genesis 6-9, an ark ornament
Abraham and Sarah, Genesis 12, a star ornament to illustrate the covenant
Abraham and Isaac, Genesis 22, a tiny toy knife hung by a ribbon on the handle
Jacob and Esau, Genesis 27, twins (I use photos of my husband and his twin brother…my husband always points out that HE represents Jacob, LOL!)
Passover, Exodus 12, a lamb
Ten Commandments, Exodus 20, a cutout paper in the shape of tablets
Israel desires a king, 1 Samuel 8, a crown
The Prophets, Jonah, an ornament of Jonah in the whale
The annunciation, Luke 1, an angel
The birth of Jesus, Luke 2, Christmas manger ornament

Depending on the season, you may want to add additional Christmas themed ornaments such as the birth of John the Baptist, three wise men, King Herod, etc.. We usually have a week’s worth of ornaments for the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, which we use during Christmas week.

At Easter, we might use just one ornament to talk about Jesus’ birth and then have a week’s worth of ornaments for his boyhood, his betrayal, last supper, crucifixion and resurrection.

Here are some more ornament and scripture possibilities for Easter week:

Boyhood of Jesus in Egypt, Matthew 2, palm tree ornament
Baptism of Jesus, Luke 3, a dove ornament
Temptation of Jesus, Luke 4, another toy snake
Palm Sunday, Matthew 21, small branch
Cleansing the temple, Mark 11, a small piece of leather to resemble a whip
Jesus anointed, John 12, a small satin box with a sample size perfume spray inside
Judas plots, Matthew 26, a bag of chocolate foil wrapped coins
The Last Supper, Luke 22, a playmobil toy cup or a little plastic communion cup
Crucifixion, Luke 23, a cross
Mystery Saturday, 1 Peter 3: 18-22, no ornament
Resurrection Day, Easter Sunday, Mark 16, an empty easter egg (empty tomb)


  1. Our absolute favorite thing to do to prepare for Christmas is the Jesse Tree. I print out the paper ornaments and each child colors in his own set. They tape theirs on their bedroom doors, and I put a family version up in the kitchen.

  2. hi!

    May I ask where you print out your ornaments?

  3. Hi Jenny,
    I put two links within the body of this post….you can click on them and they both have downloadable and printable ornaments. I personally have not used paper ornaments, but the links are there for your convenience. The links are located between the photo against the red backdrop and the bottom photo with a closeup of our tree.

  4. Enjoyed all of your posts on Christmas. You shared the Jesse Tree idea at a homeschool meeting a couple years ago, and we tried it and have kept it as a family tradition.

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