The Jesse Tree Advent Calendar

The Jesse Tree Advent Calendar

The Jesse Tree is a visual way of tracing the family tree of Christ back through the Old Testament. It also usually includes the prophets who spoke in advance of the coming of the Messiah, which is the Hebrew word for Christ.

The idea is based on a passage from the book of Isaiah (11:1-10), which foretells that a new ‘branch’ would grow out of the family tree of Jesse. Jesse, pictured above, was the father of the famous King David. Isaiah said that from this branch a royal child would one day arise to rule over the nations (Isaiah 9:1-7; Romans 15:12).

In the New Testament, this royal child is identified as Christ (Revelation 22:16). The family tree of Christ is drawn from two passages in the gospels, Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-28. Both of them describe how Christ was descended from both Jesse and King David.

The Jesse Tree theme was very popular in the Middle Ages. At that time, many stained glass windows were produced to bring the image to life. At the base of the tree, Jesse was often pictured asleep (as above). Some famous examples exist in the cathedrals of Chartres (France), Cologne (Germany) and Wells (England). Nowadays, the Jesse Tree is often used as a ‘biblical Advent calendar’.

In this series, we’ll follow this Advent tradition for the month of December. This article includes 25 individual images and reflections to help you prepare for Christmas, day by day. We’ll look at 16 of Christ’s ancestors from the Old Testament, including four kings, seven prophets and three of his family from the New Testament. All of the images are found in Catholic churches from across Great Britain.

Printable Jesse Tree ornaments

New for 2022, here you’ll also find a free set of 24 printable ornaments. Print and cut out the set, glue each on card and add some ribbons – and you have a great Advent crafting activity for all of the family. The images are designed to be hung on a Jesse or Christmas Tree during the month of December (What is a Jesse Tree? Find out here).

Add one of these colourful ornaments each day to start your festive decorations and discover more about Christ’s family tree as you go. You can use the child-friendly reflections below to find out more about each biblical saint – and how they anticipated the birth of Christ. Please note that each ornament is designed to be double-sided (image on one side, biblical quotation on the back). Happy crafting!

Here are the child-friendly reflections:

Where to see the Jesse Tree

You can find Jesse Tree windows or murals in the following Catholic churches across Great Britain:

  1. St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle
  2. St Giles, Cheadle
  3. Farm Street Church, London
  4. St Mary’s, Derby
  5. Holy Ghost, Basingstoke
  6. Our Lady of Fatima, Harlow, pictured here.
  7. St Mary’s, Gosport, pictured here.
  8. St Catherine’s, West Drayton
  9. St Mary’s, Harvington
  10. Our Lady of Good Aid Cathedral, Motherwell

All quotations are from the New Catholic Bible.

1st DecemberAdam and Eve, our first parents
2nd DecemberNoah, the herald of righteousness
3rd DecemberAbraham, our father in faith
4th DecemberIsaac, the beloved son
5th DecemberJacob, ancestor of kings
6th DecemberJudah, the lion and leader
7th DecemberRuth, the faithful foreigner
8th DecemberJesse, the root of the family tree
9th DecemberKing David, the shepherd king
10th DecemberQueen Bathsheba, the queen mother
11th DecemberKing Solomon, the peacemaker
12th DecemberKing Hezekiah, the messenger of mercy
13th DecemberKing Josiah, the religious reformer
14th DecemberZerubbabel, the chosen servant
15th DecemberIsaiah speaks of a royal child
16th DecemberJeremiah speaks of a royal branch
17th DecemberEzekiel speaks of a royal shepherd
18th DecemberDaniel speaks of a royal coronation
19th DecemberHosea speaks of the Messiah in Egypt
20th DecemberMicah speaks of the Messiah’s birth
21st DecemberMalachi speaks of the Messiah’s temple
22nd DecemberSt John the Baptist, prophet of the Most High
23rd DecemberSt Joseph, guardian of the Holy Family
24th DecemberThe Virgin Mary, mother of the Messiah
25th DecemberJesus Christ, Son of Man