Jesse Tree Advent {Tradition}

Last week I posted about a new tradition that our little family started this year. However, I didn’t get into the specifics too deeply because there was so much I wanted to share and I knew it would take a whole separate post to share it all.

If you missed my last post, no worries! I’ll start from the beginning!

Our Jesse Tree! We had two trees this year–our regular tree with family ornaments and crafts the kids have made, and our Jesse tree. Don’t mind the lights that went out…I literally waited one day too long to take this photo.

Dylan and I decided that this year, we would start a new tradition for Advent. It’s one that I had heard about years ago, but wanted to wait to begin when I had children of my own. I wish I hadn’t waited so long because this tradition doesn’t require you to have children (although, that has made it fun!) and it certainly doesn’t take a huge chunk out of your day. It’s called the Jesse Tree.

At it’s simplest, I would say it’s a special way to tell the Redemption story, beginning with Creation and walking through the Bible all the way to the birth of Christ at Christmas. It illuminates how the Bible from the very beginning, directs us to Jesus.

The idea began in Isaiah 11:1

“A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit.”

You read a verse each day during the Advent season and talk about the story it came from, say a prayer, and there’s a corresponding ornament that goes with it. I bought the book The Jesse Tree Advent – Devotions for Children and Adults to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas off of Amazon because it gives you everything you need to facilitate the discussion with your family! They use some KJV language, but you can easily pull up another translation that you prefer instead if that’s more of your style.

I bought the devotion on Amazon for like $15 and it was worth every penny!

So…where do these ornaments come from you may be thinking? On top of everything else I have going on in my busy holiday schedule I have to create 25 cute little ornaments??

Yes and no…

I decided that I wanted to include all of my friends and family in this tradition, because in my opinion, traditions are way more fun when you include the people you love! So, I hosted a Jesse Tree Ornament Exchange Party.

A what?!

A Jesse Tree Ornament Exchange Party! I texted all of my friends and family members that lived close by and I explained to them what this awesome tradition entails. I then invited them to join me in celebrating Advent in this way by helping me make some ornaments. The idea was to try to find 25 ladies (holy cow!) and have each one of them pick one of the days. They would then make 25 of that same ornament to bring to the exchange so that everyone would have that ornament and they, in turn, would collect the other 24 they needed from the other ladies at the party. At the end of the party, each lady would walk away with 25 awesome Jesse Tree Ornaments to use year after year with their families.

However, it’s kind of hard to find 25 ladies. Or maybe it was just hard for me! Regardless, I was unable to find 25 people to participate, but that didn’t stop me from still hosting this memorable event. Instead, each lady that committed to coming, chose multiple days instead of just one. But, instead of having to make 25 of each ornament, they only had to make 10 of each because there were 10 of us that came.

I gave everyone a month before we met up to do the exchange so that everyone had plenty of time to make or buy the ornaments that they selected. That’s the key here friends, TIME! If you host a Jesse Tree Party, make sure you start talking about it a few months in advance and give everyone plenty of time to scour Pinterest or chip away at them a little bit each weekend or during their kids’ nap time. It will definitely make it less daunting!

**Also, you do not HAVE to make your ornaments. There are TONS of printable ideas and resources on Pinterest that you can use if the whole arts and crafts scene isn’t your thing. I’m a 2nd grade teacher and I love using a glue gun, felt, and my Cricket any chance I can. To each her own. There is no wrong way to do it!

If you choose to buy the book I used (see above again) then here is the list of ornaments you would use along with the photos of the incredible, creative, beautiful ornaments my friends and I made. There are many different versions out there on the Internet, so just make sure you find one that correlates with the book you choose or find one that has all of the symbols and scriptures laid out so you know what to do each day!


Jesse Tree Symbols & Scriptures:

Day 1: globe/world/Earth (Genesis 1:1)


Day 2: an apple & snake (Genesis 3:1-10;23)


Day 3: an ark/rainbow (Genesis 6:5-8, 7:17-23, 9:16)


Day 4: camel & tent (Genesis 12:1-7)


Day 5: lamb (Genesis 22:1-13)


Day 6: ladder (Genesis 28:10-17)


Day 7: colorful coat (Genesis 37:3-36, 50:18-21)


Day 8: tablet with ten numbers (Exodus 32:15-18, 20:1-20)


Day 9: cluster of grapes (Numbers 13:1-2, 17-23, 27)


Day 10: sheaf of wheat (Ruth 1:16, 2:5-17, 4:14)


Day 11: slingshot (1 Samuel 16:1,13; 17:1-9, 40, 45-50)


Day 12: scroll or bible (2 Kings 23:1-3)


Day 13: stump with fresh shoot or green leaf (Isaiah 11:1-5)


Day 14: lion & lamb (Isaiah 11:6-10)

(I made this one double-sided with the lion on one side and the lamb on the other. My son thought it was hilarious!)

Day 15: dove & crown (Isaiah 9:6-7)


Day 16: lamb & shepherd’s staff (Isaiah 40:11)


Day 17: cross (Isaiah 53, Luke 2:8-18)


Day 18: heart with writing on it (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Acts 16:31)


Day 19: Bethlehem town silhouette with star (Luke 2:4-7)


Day 20: fiery furnace (Daniel 3:19-29, Jeremiah 1:8)


Day 21: brick wall (Nehemiah 1:3, 2:18, 6:15, 16, Malachi 3:1, Revelation 22:20)


Day 22: star (Matthew 2:1-12, Revelation 22:16)


Day 23: candle/light (Luke 1:26-38, 2:32)


Day 24: angel (Hebrews 1:14, Luke 2:8-14, Romans 6:23)


Day 25: baby in a manger or nativity scene (Luke 2:1-10, John 3:16-17)


Aren’t those ornaments incredible? My friends and family are pretty awesome, if I do say so myself! We had so much fun making them and then exchanging them. It was the perfect way to kick-off the Advent season. Our holiday season was pretty cram-packed full of fun and meaningful events. We were very busy and it wasn’t always easy to remember the reason for why we celebrate Christmas. But, having this daily time together where we could sit and read God’s Word, sing Christmas hymns, and pray together at the end of a busy day, was the most grounding and humbling part of each day for me. I hope you’ll consider starting this tradition with your family next year too, because I promise you, God will use your time and your efforts and make Himself known through that time.

My daughter is obviously too little to understand any of it this year, but Blake was at the sweetest age where it made the time so special (not every night!). He even started asking “Mommy, time for Blake to put ornament on tree now, peez?!” each night. He may not have grasped some of the deep, profound theology behind the stories we read and why they are so pivotal to the foundation of our faith…but I’m learning that this journey in raising Godly kiddos is a long-term, lifelong thing. If I truly believe that God is alive, present, powerful, and King of my life and my family’s life, I have to keep at it…even when it seems like it’s falling on deaf or distracted toddler ears.

I hope your holiday and Advent season were truly wonderful. I hope that you were able to find some quiet time during the hustle and bustle to huddle with your family and talk about Jesus and why He came down and made Himself as tiny as a baby for us. But if you didn’t…don’t worry! The wonderful thing about having a relationship with God is that even though Christmas is a great reminder of His coming, you can still spend every day living your life worshiping Him and making Him known to your family. You don’t have to wait until next year at Christmas to gather your family up for time in the word together. Isn’t that awesome!?

Does your family have a special tradition that you do during the holidays? I’d love to hear about it!



Advent {the coming}

When I was growing up, my family began the Christmas season by celebrating Advent. We had special candles that we would light after my dad read from our Advent book. He would let us take turns lighting the candles and reading excerpts from each chapter. We also had a vertical, red felt countdown with 25 candy canes tied by ribbons to signify the number of days left until Christmas morning. On Christmas Eve, we would put on our Christmas dresses, load up the minivan, and head to the Christmas Eve service at church. My favorite part of the service was at the end when we each got to hold a real, lit candle whilst singing O Holy Night or Silent Night. When the song ended and everyone blew out their candles, it always smelled like the smell you smell right before you get to eat birthday cake…a glorious smell for any child (or let’s be real, adults too!). Then, we would drive home, put on our Christmas jammies and eat way too many Christmas cookies while my dad read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. We would protest sleep for as long as we could, claiming that we were way too excited to fall asleep, even if we tried. I’m sure that many of you can relate to some of the traditions I just described.


As an adult that is now married with children of my own, I have to say that this time of year gets me really excited. I remember how special my parents always made the holidays. They always tried to make sure that our family was together, that there was always good food, and that we never once forgot the reason for the season. I hope to evoke those same feelings in my children some day.

When Dylan and I were preparing to get married, we did premarital counseling–something I highly recommend any engaged couple should do! During one of our sessions, we were asked to discuss our family’s traditions–what we liked, what we didn’t like, what we hoped to do with our own future family, etc. I remember getting really excited, worked up, and a tad hostile having that conversation because I truly felt like my family had the important holidays pegged perfectly and there was no room for improvement. My future babies would follow suit and have a basically identical childhood as me, because I thought I turned out super great.

But, the funny thing about marriage and families is…there’s another family being joined to yours and you’re not just a one-sided party any longer. It’s now two adults with separate families, traditions, rituals, and backgrounds merging together.

If you truly know me…and know me well…you know that I don’t like change.

Even more so, I don’t like change when it’s going to disrupt something I’ve always done and I’m forced to compromise. The OCD, Type-A personality, selfish side of me turns a little queasy and panicky.

During this premarital counseling session, I had to shut up. After I gushed and gushed about my wonderful family traditions, our pastor had to cut me off and let Dylan have a turn. I was forced to be quiet and just listen. Many of the things he shared put my mind to ease because they were similar to mine. But, there were also many things he shared that were different…and I didn’t like that. Our pastor shared with me that just because Dylan or his family does something “different” from mine, doesn’t make it “wrong”. You may be sitting there shaking your head or thinking “duh…” But to me, it was profound. I’ve had to remind myself of that statement MANY times during our five years of marriage.

The conversation then turned from what each of our separate families did and we began to discuss what our new, little, Dylan and Audrey family traditions might look like. We began to dream, vision-cast, share, veto, and agree to revisit some things later. Over the past five years, we’ve had to split our time between families and it’s not always been easy since they live two hours apart. We’ve had to pick and choose our battles, but ultimately keep the perspective that family is the most important thing and everything else will eventually work itself out.

Now that we have two, sweet little kiddos, the holidays are even more exciting and exhausting. I’ve felt more pressure now that Blake is getting older to make sure that he doesn’t miss out on what’s most important. I’ve made lists and reminders in my phone, prayed endlessly, huddled with my husband, and been a little too hard on myself at times to try to make things perfect. Anyone else?? Man, the stress of the holidays can really put on the pressure!


In light of all that we’ve discussed and began implementing in our little family over the past few years, we decided that this year, we would start a new tradition for Advent. It’s one that I had heard about years ago, but wanted to wait to begin when I had children of my own. Honestly, I wish I hadn’t waited so long! This tradition doesn’t require you to have children (although, that has made it fun!) and it certainly doesn’t take a huge chunk out of your day. It’s called the Jesse Tree. Have you heard of it?? Well, if you’re unfamiliar, it’s basically a special way to tell the Redemption story, beginning with Creation and walking through the Bible all the way to the birth of Christ at Christmas. It illuminates how the Bible from the very beginning, directs us to Jesus. You read a short devotional, say a prayer, and put a cute ornament on the tree.

[I will be doing a separate post about this tradition and how I got all 25 ornaments. So be on the lookout for that!]

Our time each day doing these ornaments and time of devotion to prepare our hearts for the coming of our baby King has looked considerably different depending on the day. Some days, you would find us all curled up on the couch, telling our kids the Bible story that went along with our ornament, praying together and singing sweet Christmas hymns. Other days…you would find us hurriedly putting the ornament on the tree and giving a brief version of the story as we rushed our kids off to bed at the end of a long day. Still other times, you may have found us yelling at our toddler to stop throwing the ornament across the room, sit down, and just listen for goodness sake! Does that make me a bad mom? I don’t think so. I think it makes me human and probably in good company with many of you. My oldest sister actually pointed me to a woman she follows on Instagram (@catherinesallison) as she shared her not so neat and tidy Advent experience and it gave such encouragement to my heart. She posted:

Parents: If you feel like your family advent reading times don’t exactly match the pretty pictures you see online…if your children aren’t pleading with you to “tell me more about the incarnation, mommy, won’t you please tell me more?”…if it all feels more like a circus and less like a sanctuary…SAME. One of my darling children looked us in the eyeballs tonight and said, “This is all so pointless. I know everything there is to know about Jesus and the Bible already. It’s all borrrrrring.” So. That’s fun. But you wanna know a tip from a non-expert and fellow struggler? Do it anyway. Because I’ve decided that if God’s Word is really alive + active + sharper than a double-edged sword- if this is something I’m ACTUALLY going to believe- then I have no choice but to believe it has the power to bust into THIS crazy and wreck some little hearts this Advent season. Including my own.

So, if your Advent season didn’t look like the neat and tidy picture of quiet children in jammies, clinging to your every word as you taught, explained, prayed, and sang…please know, you are in good company. There will be days and years where you feel like you’re missing the mark with it. But I keep reminding myself that I get to be like an Israelite mother to my children and use ornaments instead of stones to tell stories of all that God has done in our lives. I get the amazing privilege of telling Blake and Nora the meaning behind each handmade ornament we hang. I want them to hear the story of God’s faithfulness to His people and how that applies to our lives today. Whether my small children sit still and listen and soak in God’s Word or not, I know that this time is not wasted. God is still using this time to teach me and to fill me so that I can pour into them.