What does the Jesse Tree represent?


The Jesse Tree is an Advent tradition believed to stem back to Medieval times. It was - and is - a way for Christians to look to the Hebrew Scriptures and see our God setting the stage for the birth of Jesus, long before it happened. 

Jesus was a real person, with a family tree and ancestors like every other human. The Jesse Tree is named for Jesse, father of King David, from whose descendants Jesus was born 1000 years later.  The Old Testament prophecy points to a Savior, or Messiah, to come from this very family tree. 

"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots..." - Isaiah 11:1

The symbols on the Jesse Tree point to events and persons that stand out in our history of God & his people, leading up to Jesus' coming. They show us the unveiling of God's promise, bit by bit, as He reaches out over the centuries to invite His children to share ever more fully in friendship and life. 

The symbols used on the tree are explained in the order which they are placed on the tree, one each day until Christmas:

 

Earth, Sun & Moon

Symbols of Creation
Tree & Snake
 
Symbols of the disobedience of Adam & Eve
Ark
 
Symbol of Noah, who survived the flood through his obedience to God.
Torch
 
Symbol of Abraham's faith in God.
Ram
 
Symbol of Isaac. Abraham was asked to trust God by offering his beloved son. God spared Isaac by providing a ram for the offering.
Ladder
 
Symbol of Jacob, who dreamed of a ladder rising to heaven.
Coat
 
Symbol of Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers.
Tablets Symbol of Moses, chosen by God to lead the Israelites from Egypt and receive the law.
Sandals Symbol of Ruth, a woman of fidelity and piety who chose to remain with her mother-in-law, abandoning her own country and its pagan worship.
Lamp
 
Symbol of Samuel, last of the judges of the Hebrew scriptures.
Stump
 
Symbol of Jesse, shepherd of Bethlehem, David's father.
Star of David
 
Also a symbol of Jesse
Crown
 
Symbol of David, who became king of Israel after Saul.
Temple
 
Symbol of Solomon, David's successor and builder of a lavish temple.
Fish
 
Symbol of Jonah, who tried to escape God's calling by sailing away. After being swallowed by a fish for three days, he set out to do God's will.
Shell
 
Symbol of John the Baptist, who preached the coming of Jesus. To show that he was the promised one, he baptized Jesus in the Jordan.
Hammer
 
Symbol of Joseph, an honest, hardworking carpenter, destined to be the foster father of Jesus.
Lily
 
Symbol of Mary, mother of the Savior.
Angel, Star & Manger
 
Symbols of the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ

Cross

Symbol of Christ, reminder that our redemption is close at hand.

 

Thank you to Nancy Miller for her hard work
creating our beautiful Jesse Tree symbols!

 
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