Believe it or not, I had never heard of a Jesse Tree before this year. I have a fellow homeschooling friend, Jenn, who has made an online Advent Idea Box, and that's how I heard of the Jesse Tree. That's also how I found this book, The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean.
The Jesse Tree is a fantastic book that you can read to your children during the season of Advent. It's definitely something I plan to use with my boys next year. The author weaves the stories of the Bible in such a way that children of all ages, including "older" children, can enjoy them together. In the beginning and at the end of the book is a huge 2-page spread of an actual Jesse tree, illustrated, of course, with all of the symbols that you would put on your Jesse tree. The Introduction explains what a Jesse Tree is, in simple terms, using the example of a family tree. A Jesse Tree is simply a tree that depicts stories of the Bible that led up to Jesus' birth. As the book puts it, "Jesse trees were the Bible-storybooks of unlettered people" (page 8). As you add the daily symbols to your tree, you can read the corresponding chapter from this book. At the top of each chapter is the picture of the symbol that should be placed on the tree that day. Here's a picture of our Jesse Tree this year....since I had never really done one before, we didn't get too creative, and we still have a couple of ornaments left to put on....although now that I know the true meaning behind this tradition, I'm anxious to get more creative on next year's tree. The kids still had a lot of fun with it, maybe a little too much fun, as I see Jaden took the green marker to our tree.
Anyway, the book starts out with the story of a carpenter, who is working away when a little boy wanders into the church where he's working. As time goes on, the carpenter begins to tell the little boy the stories behind each symbol of the Jesse Tree. Stories such as the story of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, David, etc., are told in chronological order, leading up to the story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of the Baby Jesus. As the stories weave on, told in such an imaginative and wonderful way, it seems the carpenter rather enjoys his time with the little boy, even though he might not admit it. The story ends in a surprising way.
The book is just full of beautiful illustrations, and I really do recommend this for any family celebrating the season of Advent. You could get a headstart on it by getting it early and reading it for yourself....as it will probably lead to many discussions with your children. I am very much excited to have this on my bookshelf; it's a resource we will use over and over, I am sure. You can purchase The Jesse Tree from Lion Hudson for £4.99, or from Eerdmans for $20 in the U.S. I definitely recommend this book for all families. It's a resource that will help you teach your children the true meaning of the Christmas season....and may lead to an even deeper meaning for yourself.
(Disclosure: I was provided this book, free of charge, by Lion Hudson.)