by Ashley Anthony

 Jesse Tree

Let’s talk Christmas! I know it is only October 31st, and I’m sure you have little ones who are very excited about candy and costumes. I’m sure your fall decorations are out, and you may even be thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. But now is the time. Now is the time to start preparing for the sweetest season: Christmas.

One Christmas tradition near and dear to our family’s heart is The Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree may not be anything new to you and your family, but if you haven’t heard about it, this is one tradition I encourage you to start with your family this year.

In 2010, I first watched EE-Taow’s documentary on the Mouk Tribe. It exposed me to the fact that we had given our kids so many pieces to the “puzzle” through many Bible stories, yet failed to focus on putting them all together into HIS-story! I realized the way the Mouk Tribe fell in love with Jesus was by hearing the whole Bible story chronologically from Creation to Christ’s resurrection! I was convicted that my own kids needed to learn in this way.

I had been studying the Bible this way for a few years, and it had meant the world to me. It illuminated my mind, heart and eyes to the Truth by piecing the years together.  This was the exact moment when I realized we HAD to do the Jesse Tree full force. It needed to be done intentionally, and with the faith that our children would grow spiritually, allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate their sweet little eyes, minds and hearts to be drawn to Him for regeneration. This is not just another Christmas “story-time.” This is Christmas!

Jesse Tree is an advent re-telling of the lineage of Christ. Jesse is the father of King David. Each day, a new ornament (one that you can create yourself or buy) is put on your Jesse Tree, representing the story for that day. The beautiful story telling begins with creation and ends with the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

With all that said, let me strongly encourage you not to worry about how cute or ugly you think your ornaments are, or even if you have them all. The ornaments are important, but they are not the most important part. We have a snack for the kids within the gift bag under the Jesse Tree that holds the day’s ornament. We also typically have a craft time for the kids where they can take notes or draw pictures to help them remember the lesson. The crafts and snacks are fun, but are not critical enough to stress out over and remove the joy of the Jesse Tree. The important part is setting aside a time every night to experience the Bible with your child.

The Jesse Tree will plant sweet spiritual seeds. It will grow your children (as well as you and your spouse) spiritually, and flourish their relationship with Christ! We constantly pray for the salvation of our children, and in December of 2011, a prayer was answered! The Holy Spirit spoke sweetly to my daughter’s soul. We watched her wrestle with the big picture of why Jesus came to live among men, and how and why He loved her so. It was amazing to hear her mature questions and deep thoughts about the gospel story. We cherish those memories and thank God for them. She understood why mom and dad spoke of and taught her about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, prayer, and having purpose in life.

She answered Jesus’ call to follow Him, and THAT is why this is so important to our family. We praise God for her salvation and continue to relentlessly pursue the Lord with expectant and thankful hearts for the salvation of our other two babies.  God used this simple, beautiful Christmas story to show our little girl who He is and why He sent His Son so long ago to be born in a stable. It’s not just history. It’s HIS STORY. Praise God!

So, don’t be discouraged or intimidated. I want to encourage you with the ideas and fun things, but not overwhelm you with “something else” on your busy Christmas schedule. Like I said before, THIS IS CHRISTMAS. What better time and way to jump into God’s Word with your children?

I have put together lessons and ideas from various resources to help you plan your own Jesse Tree for your family. I wrote these when I had two preschoolers and a baby. Now I have two grade-school girls and a very active preschooler. This year, I will certainly modify my lessons a bit to adapt to where they are in their maturity levels and to meet our schedule. Remember, it’s not about being fancy and extravagant. You’ll surely cave under the pressure to “do more”or to be “as good as that person’s” if this becomes a contest. There are no points for number of ornaments or the creativity of your lessons or crafts. It’s about teaching your children, chronologically, the story of Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to work within your audience because of your faithfulness and obedience in abiding in Jesus.

As parents, we are to train our children in such a way that they become drawn to Christ in repentance for forgiveness, illumination, regeneration and the life-long process of sanctification. We do this so they, as Jesus-loving, world impacters, can influence and train those in their mission field to love Jesus and obey Him in the same way. The Jesse Tree is one way to obey Christ as we teach them to observe everything He has commanded. My prayer is that you will pray about this opportunity to impact others in the precious Name of Jesus. Merry Christmas!

Our Ornament List:
1. Earth: Creation
2. Apple: Adam and Eve
3. Rainbow: Noah
4. Stars: God’s Promise to Abe
5. Bundle of Sticks: Isaac
6. Ladder: Jacob
7. Coat: Joseph
8. Burning Bush: Moses
9. Lamb/Passover Door: Passover
10. 10 Commandments: Moses gives God’s Commandments
11. Wheat: Ruth
12. Red Rope: Rahab
13. Trumpet/Ram Horn: Joshua
14. Male Crown: Samuel
15. Shepherds Crook: David
16. Stone Altar: Elijah
17. Sun: Isaiah
18. Tears: Jeremiah
19. Lion: Daniel
20. Whale: Jonah
21. Female Crown: Esther
22. Watch Tower: Habakkuk
23. Heart: Ezra: God’s people turn their heart back to God
24. Pen/Tablet: Zachariah/John
25. Angel: Mary
26. Manger: Jesus’ Birth
27. Star: Wise Men

Some helpful resources:

Ann Voskamp’s Blog

My Jesse Tree resources

Ashley Anthony

*How does your family teach your children about the story of Christ at Christmas? We would love to hear from you below!

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