Blog

Jesse Tree: A Beautiful Advent Tradition

Jesse Tree: What’s in a Name?

The Jesse Tree is an old Advent tradition and one that has its roots (pun intended) in scripture and tradition.  The Jesse Tree is named after Jesse, the father of David, the great, Jewish king from the Old Testament.

There was an ancient, but well-known Jewish prophesy that is found in the book of Isaiah, chapter 11, verses 1-2:

“But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.”

We are most likely all familiar with this passage, but it might be a little hard to understand why Jesse is being compared to a stump.

There is a footnote in the New American Bible that explains how after the reign of King David and after the Babylonian exile, only a remnant of the line of Jesse remained.  It was from this remnant that Jesus came, from the house of David – “a shoot…from the stump of Jesse.”

Shoots or sprouts are signs of new life and hope.  Jesus, as the descendant of David, and of Jesse, represents the new sprout – the new hope – the source of salvation.

What is a Jesse Tree?

The concept of a Jesse Tree is similar to that of a family tree.  It traces the story of salvation from creation until the Birth of Christ.  The Jesse Tree originated in the medieval period.  Originally, the focus was placed solely on the people involved.  More recent versions focus on prophecies, events, and people leading up until the time of Christ.  In a sense, it is a way for us to join the ancestors of Jesus in waiting and expectation of His coming.

The Jesse Tree and Advent

Advent is a time of expectation and preparation.  It is a time to remember not only the first coming of Jesus in the little town of Bethlehem, but also to look forward to His second coming.  The season of Advent allows us to prepare our hearts in a special way for Christmas – the Birth of Christ – the Birth of our salvation!  A man by the name of Henri Nouwen said,

“Waiting is a period of learning.  The longer we wait, the more we learn about Him for whom we are waiting for.”

There is no better way to prepare room for Jesus in our hearts than by closely praying with and focusing on the great events leading up to our salvation.  Looking at the whole Old Testament with its 46 books can be a little overwhelming to say the least.  The Jesse Tree helps to break it down into bite-size pieces perfect for children, families, and all individuals.  The Jesse Tree can also serve as a kind of Advent Calendar. This year we  are especially excited about our new magnetic Jesse Tree!

The First Jesse Trees

The first Jesse Trees appeared in art most likely during the medieval times.  They began as tapestries, carvings, and stained glass windows in churches so that people who were illiterate could still have a chance to “read” the Bible and learn about the events leading up to the Birth of Christ.

The Jesse Tree designs showed Jesus’ connection with Jesse and other important Biblical figures.  A tree grew out of Jesse and on its branches were pictures of other ancestors of Jesus.  The tree would then culminate with the figures of Jesus and Mary.  The Cathedral of Chartres, in France, dating back to 1260, has a particularly famous and beautiful Jesse Tree stained glass window.

Why Use a Jesse Tree?

Advent is a time of joyful expectation.  Using a Jesse Tree can help place the focus on the amazing faithfulness of God, our Father and Savior.  The Jesse Tree encompasses over 4,000 years of history.  The true faithfulness and love of God are seen in that rich history.  He has kept the promise He made to Abraham and to every generation since then – to be present and faithful.  God is here with us still and He always will be.

In the words of the “O Antiphon” for December 19:

“O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!”

 

A New and Simple Way to Celebrate Advent

Today, we are excited to announce our newest project on Kickstarter! My Jesse Tree: Magnet Set is a fun and easy way for families to learn the Bible stories that bring us to the birth of Jesus.

Each day in December, leading up to Christmas, you’ll add a new Bible character to your Jesse Tree magnet board. Every character has its own holy card with a short story.

Head on over to our project on Kickstarter to learn more about it and to see how you can reserve your very own set!

5 Steps To Making Your Jesse Tree Tradition A Success

Creating a Jesse Tree is an exciting Advent tradition! But for many of us it is brand new. When visiting my sister during Advent, I was inspired by the simple things she did to turn hanging ornaments on the Jesse Tree with her children into a special tradition.

Advent candles and manger

You may have your tree, readings, and symbols all figured out, but organizing it all into these simple steps will help to bring everything together successfully.

1. Assemble with Singing
Rather than running to find everyone, start singing to signal to the family that it is time to come to the Jesse Tree. The first lines of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” work great.

2. Set the Mood with Candles
Be sure to light the candles on your advent wreath as part of your Jesse Tree tradition. This will both set the mood and signal to everyone that you are entering a time of prayer and reflection.

Advent wreath with candles

3. Read the Readings
After singing and lighting the candles, your family will be more ready to pay attention and absorb information. Here, my sister’s family is using the Jesse Tree readings from our book, Bible Characters for Advent. This year they’ll be using our story cards from our new Magnetic Jesse Tree Set. 

children reading Bible Characters for Advent book

4. Include the Bible
While our readings are written for children, it is also important to familiarize them with the Bible. Each story in our book has a reference to the verse in scripture from which it was taken. My sister’s family started with the story from Bible Characters for Advent and followed that with the corresponding Bible verse.

Reading Bible

5. Sing While Hanging the Ornament
Finally, it’s time to hang your Jesse Tree ornament! Or stick your Jesse Tree ornament on your Magnetic Jesse Tree like they will be this year. My sister would alternate which child would hang the ornament each night. While hanging the ornament they would sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” which serves as a good “bookend” to the little ceremony.

Jesse Tree with ornaments

Adding these simple steps your Jesse Tree tradition will help to make it a hit. We’ve just sold out of Bible Characters for Advent in our shop! But you can still get your copy today on Amazon.

BONUS idea: Find a Jesse Tree traditional that works for YOU! It was incredible seeing all my sister-in-laws beautiful diy ornaments on her tree… but when it came to my house our rowdy little boys thought it was more fun to pull the ornaments apart than hang them on the tree. That’s why I created our new Magnetic Jesse Tree set. Our tree has all the same symbolism and beauty, but with magnets, the fun comes in putting them on the tree not pulling them off. 🙂

Epic Black Friday Sale!!

We want everyone to share the joy of the saints this Christmas season so we’re doing a crazy sale on My Catholic Magnets!

Magnets of the Saints

These deals give you well over 50% off.

I don’t know when or if you will see these deals again! Now is the time to stock up! Think of your children, godchildren, class…

If you haven’t checked them out yet, My Catholic Magnets are 3”x4” magnets for kids that each feature a different hand drawn saint or Catholic figure. They also include a holy card with the saints story that is specially written for children to understand.

We have two amazing deals to choose from:

Black Friday Deal #1

You can choose 12 saints in our store for only $25! Saving you $35!! COUPON CODE: BUY5GET7FREE

Black Friday Deal #2

Order the 12 month saint subscription for $60  where you receive a newly released saint magnet each month for an entire year! (January – December 2017) and you’ll receive 13 saint magnets free as an immediate bonus!! A $125 value for only$60!!

These deals will only be live Black Friday – Cyber Monday 11/25-11/28! Don’t miss out!

We are already getting ready to ship out over 1,000 magnets of the saints to children around the country! Are yours on the way??

Give a Meaningful First Communion Gift

There are two distinct memories I have of my First Communion day. The first is the joy and anticipation as we lined up before Church in our beautiful First Communion dress knowing that at this Mass I was going to receive Jesus into my heart for the very first time.

meaningful-first-communion-gift

The second memory, was having a friend brag to me later that day that they received more money in gifts than I did. I remember thinking as a little kid… “Well the day isn’t about the money” But thinking back on the moment it reminds me of the importance of giving meaningful religious gifts.

Watching my own children grow and a godparent and I often struggle with the thought… “How do I get a unique gift that has significance, but the child will also enjoy?” My life got much easier after writing Bible Characters for Advent it has been my go to gift for religious events. Now it may seem odd to give a gift named Bible Characters for Advent for a First Communion gift. But there is no Holy Eucharist without Christmas.

During Advent we walked through all the moments of Salvation History from the moment God created the earth till Jesus birth on Christmas day. But we also looked at all the moments in the Old Testament that told us what to look forward to with the coming of Jesus. Like Jesus giving us his Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.

Now my son won’t be making his First Communion this year being only 3 years old… But everytime we go up to Holy Communion he tries to make a dive for Jesus crying out, “I want Jesus! When can I have Jesus??” Now I want child excited about his First Communion… but my joy is usually masked by the fact that I’m terrified he is going to tackle the priest on his quest to receive Jesus.

But for the wonderful children who are making their First Communion… Bible Characters for Advent makes a wonderful gift. The simple illustrations and short stories are great to recap what was talked about during the Gospel at church, or as a springboard while looking at a particular Bible story.

As a parent, godparent, aunt, uncle or friend you have an incredible opportunity to share something when a child you know makes their First Communion. Don’t help them win the cash contest… Give something that reflects the significance of the day. A gift that will help them grow closer to Jesus who they will be receiving for the first time on this very special day.

What Halloween has Taught Me about Christmas

I’ve never compared Halloween to Christmas, but Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggietales was talking about it and got me thinking.

family in Halloween costumes

This Halloween went remarkably smooth, we all had great costumes, it wasn’t a nightmare getting ready. It made me think I want our Advent to be this amazing.

The secret, we had 3 tries to get it right.

#1 Halloween at the library story time. Our costumes were basic but cute, however, being made out of construction paper they melted in the rain. I also forgot my camera 🙁

#2 Halloween night at church. We were getting better, our costumes had upgrades after several hours of quality time at Hobby Lobby.

#3 Halloween night. In the past I was always the person scrambling to finish my costume while everyone else was ready to go. This year was great. I knew all our costumes worked. We had everything laid out in advance ready to go.

I want Advent to be like this. If you wait till Thanksgiving to think about Advent it’s too late. Advent has arrived! Obviously it’s great to celebrate Advent no matter when you begin. But Halloween was so much more fun having worked out all the kinks in advance. In the spirit of that I’m getting ready for Advent today! Halloween was way better when we actually prepared. Advent and Christmas here we come.

Make your Jesse Tree a Smash Hit

Sure, your Jesse Tree tradition is beautiful. You’ve picked out a tree, found readings you love, and have adorable ornaments. But is it truly a smash hit?

christmas bulb

I want to leave this Advent season with a few things; a deeper love for Jesus and a great understand and appreciation for the stories in the Bible.

But some stories can’t just be told with a book and an adorable printable. I was thinking about the split in the kingdom, when the kingdom of Israel splits into two because the people turned away from God.

Once that happened, it could not be fixed. The kingdom was destroyed until Jesus came. Jesus came and preached to the Jews and the Gentiles. Jesus came to bring all people back to God.

Kids love when things are visual and interactive. For example, you can make a crown. You can make it out of clay too, but I’m planning paper mache yes, filled with candy. Once you have your crown, you can make it beautiful by painting or coloring it.

Then you’ll explain to the kids how Jesus loved the Kingdom of Israel and it was beautiful. However, every time the people sinned and turned against God, they broke their covenant with Him and destroyed the Kingdom God had given them.

Now is the fun part where you let the kids smash the crown you’ve made. If it’s a pinata, there’ll be some scrabbling for candy too.

Once the crown is broken, have the kids try to put the crown back together. It will be impossible!

After the Kingdom of Israel split, the only one who could bring it back together was Jesus. This would be a great activity for Day 18 on your Jesse Tree. Your readings are about Jeroboam and Rehoboam, the two kings who split Solomon’s kingdom.

Every day of the Jesse Tree can’t be a big party. But choosing a few special activities for certain days really brings home the point in an extra special way.

Stars of Your Jesse Tree

How do you pick which characters go on your Jesse Tree? There are so many important figures in the Bible, how do you possibly narrow it down to 25?

Jesse tree with stars

There isn’t a simple answer. People have different opinions. Choosing the stars in Bible Characters for Advent was tough. We put a lot of thought, prayer, and research into it.

Our goal was to show how every character on the Jesse Tree related back to Jesus. Growing up, I loved reading my children’s Bible. I could tell you all the stories; Moses, David, Jesus. And they were all exciting stories!

But I think I missed some of the deeper meanings. I thought David was awesome because he took out Goliath with a slingshot! I was super excited to make a slingshot after that. However the true reason that David is celebrated is that he was a the greatest King in the Old Testament. He ruled over God’s people, just as Jesus would rule over God’s people.

Jeroboam and Rehoboam, those are two names many of us have never hear. Yet they are reason we hear about the Israelites in the Old Testament and the Jews in the New Testament.

The big stories in the Bible showing how everyone relates to Jesus can be complicated! That’s why my husband, who has a Masters in Theology from Franciscan University, figured out all the connections. But I love simple stories, just a few words on a page. So I took all of the complicated stories and made them simple so both a child and I could enjoy them.

Check out who we choose as stars of our Jesse Tree.

Why make a Jesse Tree

So why make a Jesse Tree? Because Christmas is coming everyone is celebrating! There are sales to celebrate the sales coming on Black Friday.  is barely here and “the holiday season” is in full swing.

Jesse tree with ornaments

It is hard to sit back and watch the festivities. We want to excited about Christmas, but also careful that we’re not teaching our kids that buying things and Santa are the meaning of Christmas.

A Jesse Tree is a great solution! You can set up your tree, Now!Ok, I’d at least wait till after Thanksgiving. But with a Jesse Tree you can begin your celebration right away, but you’re not celebrating Santa. Instead it is all the wonderful people in the Bible that led up to the birth of Jesus.

Each day you read a short story from the Bible that bring to life the characters in a way that is simple for kids to understand. Then you’ll add your ornament to your tree.

You can pick how much time to spend each day, there are simple options for ornaments like full color printables, or you can spend time talking about the stories while coloring your own ornaments.Finally, if you want some really messy fun you can dive into DIY Jesse Tree ornaments.

Whether you read a few stories a day or make this a daily tradition during Advent the point is that your family is actively looking forward to Christmas!

What does your family do during Advent to help keep Christ in Christmas?

If you’re looking to start a Jesse Tree be sure to check out The Ultimate Guide to Making a Jesse Tree we’ve compiled all the resources you’ll need.

The most Important Bible Story that is most often Left Out

When we read Bible stories to our children, there are common stories that are never forgotten. It it is, after all, very important that they learn that Adam and Eve sinned (it’s the reason for Jesus) or that Moses lead the Israelites in the desert. But in my opinion, the most important Bible story that’s most often left out is the story of Jeroboam and Rehoboam.

jeroboam-rehoboam

Rehoboam was the grandson of the great King David. David’s kingdom was the largest and most powerful in all of the Old Testament and when Rehoboam’s time came, he took over as king of that kingdom.

But Rehoboam was bent on being a fierce leader, and ignored the council of the older men who advised him to be civil with the people. Instead, he listened to the advice of the people he had grown up with and tried to demonstrate his might as king by showing no mercy and taxing the people heavily.

This lead to a war that split kingdom. Jeroboam ruled ten of the twelve tribes of Israel. They became known as Israel. Rehoboam ruled two of the tribes, Judah and Benjamin. They became known as Judah.

Over time there would be conflicts and wars with people of other nations and eventually the people of the Kingdom of Israel were defeated and taken away into Exile. While the Kingdom of Judah was also later taken away, they were able to maintain their identity and eventually returned from Exile. When it was all said and done, Judah was all that was left of the original twelve tribes of Israel. And by Jesus’s time, they became known as the Jews.

The Kingdom of Israel became dispersed into other groups of people and were lost. When Jesus comes, he doesn’t simply preach to the Jews (the Kingdom of Judah), he also preaches to the non-jews, the Gentiles, who have the Kingdom of Israel mixed in.

This fulfills what’s said in the Old Testament. Referring to the Exile, Isaiah says “…the LORD will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people” (Isaiah 11:11). And before that in Genesis, God says to Abraham “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3) One way that Jesus makes both of these come true is by inviting all people into the kingdom of God.

Growing up, I never really understood why it was the Israelites in the Old Testament and the Jews in the New. And I didn’t get that when Jesus preached to all people it was tied into the stories of the Old Testament.

In our Advent book, Bible Characters for Advent, we were sure to include the story of Jeroboam and Rehoboam. But we told it in just 11 sentences and in a way a kid will understand. We believe that if you tell it right, kids really can understand the story of the Bible. Hope you do too.