Advent Symbols  for the  Jesse Tree
also known as  the Advent Tree

One of the better known Advent symbols is the the Advent wreath with candles.

Many Advent symbols are included in the custom of the Advent calendar, which is a somewhat popular tradition.

Another custom, known as the Jesse tree, or the Advent tree, includes many Advent symbols taken from the bible.

Actually, there's hundreds of appropriate symbols for Advent, which can be made as ornaments, and put on the Jesse Tree.

It can be a very fun and meaningful Advent activity for kids, one that I myself enjoyed participating in as a child.

What is the Advent Tree? - What is the Jesse Tree?

The Jesse tree, aka Advent tree, is an indoor small real or artificial tree or branch, on which ornamental symbols from the Old Testament to the coming of Christ are hung, to remind us of the four thousand year biblical history before and up to the coming of Christ.

For a church or school bulletin board, the tree and ornaments can be made out of paper.

The Advent Tree - Why is it called the Jesse Tree?

The Advent tree is also called the Jesse tree. When I was growing up, we learned it as the Jesse tree. It's named that, because there are several references in the bible to Jesus coming from the stem of Jesse, and growing out of its roots. Jesse was the father of David, a king in Israel who replaced Saul.

  • Out of the line of Jesse will grow a shoot, a new branch from the old roots. Isaiah 11:1
  • In that day the heir to David's throne (the root of Jesse) will be a banner of salvation to all the world. Isaiah 11:10
  • The Apostle Paul refers to this in his Epistle to the Romans, 15:12.
  • Jesus confirmed that he is both the descendant and Lord of David, in Matthew 22:41-45, Mark 12:35-37, and Luke 20:41-44.

The Jesse tree reminds us of the genealogy of Christ, how as a human he is a descendant of David and Jesse, coming after them, and yet as God he came before anyone else, including David and Jesse.

He is the root of the tree, and at the same time a perfect branch on the tree.

Jesse Tree Material - Paper

Often in a classroom, the Jesse tree is a paper tree put on the bulletin board, and the symbols are paper ornaments made by the teacher and students, which are put on the tree throughout the Advent season, going from the earliest times in the bible up to when Christ comes.

To save time, it can be cut out as a green Christmas tree, and then the ornaments can be left or changed when Christmas comes. A star or angel can be added at the top, or more decorations like paper lights and tree bulbs put on.

Jesse Tree Material - Wood or Stick Branches

For at least a couple of years, our family did a Jesse tree, and sometimes put it on top the piano, because it often didn't quite fit on the kitchen table at meal times.

The very best Jesse tree we ever had - in my humble opinion - was one I picked out myself.

One year, I went out into our forest and cut a big branch off a bush. We have a lot of wild bushes that lose their leaves in the fall. My mother asked me why a dead-looking bush, and I told her that's because before Christ came the world was very barren.

We got a square of plywood, drove a big nail through the center of it and through the center of the branch, and voila, we had a nice little tree to hang our paper ornaments on - with a bit of string tied to each, of course.

Because it was like a skeleton, and wasn't an evergreen tree, the ornaments could be hung anywhere on the tree and still be seen - and a lot of them twirled around in the breeze when someone opened the door. So a lot of times we would have fun blowing the ornaments, or opening the door and swinging the door real fast back and forth, to see them all move together!

I guess you learn stuff a lot faster when you're having fun.

But I wonder if we sometimes lost our brains letting all the cold come in from outside, and all the heat from the wood stove going quickly out the door!

Advent Symbols - Jesse Tree Ornaments

There are hundreds of appropriate symbols for the Jesse tree, taken from the Old Testament bible history, and some in the new. Just make sure it is age appropriate according to the bible history that the participants know and understand, and related to Advent.

In fact, many of these symbols can also be used in Lent, as a reminder of sin and its punishment, chains and captivity, and the deliverance symbols of Passover.

What you can do, is start with the older symbols at the bottom of the tree, and the ones closer to Christ you can put near the tip of the tree at the top.

Unless you have templates, may I suggest that you show each participant how big each symbol should be, or give them cards of paper, or rounded shapes to fill in. Else some can end up too small, and others too big. And you can make the back side a symbol also, either the same or a different one.

Advent Tree - The Chain

Another optional idea is to make a paper chain out of different colored paper, to put on the Advent Tree. It can represent several things;

  • The long chain of different people during 4,000 years until the coming of Christ
  • The long chain of different events that happened in those 4,000 years
  • The chains of sin that Christ would replace with the bond of love to re-unite the broken, fallen world

This chain can then be used on the Christmas tree, or leave the Jesse tree up during Christmas, or hang it in half loops from the ceiling around the room.

One year, when I was teaching second grade, my class of 12 boys and myself made a multi-color paper chain 130 feet long, which went completely around the classroom and one or two trees as well !!!

Advent Symbols - The Root

At the root of the tree, you could put a symbol of a big root, and then put symbols of God.

  • the all-seeing eye in a triangle and surrounded by clouds
  • the hand of God creating
  • a balance of justice

Advent Symbols - Creation and Fall

  • sun, moon, stars, the earth, fish, birds, animals, man and woman
  • serpent, eaten fruit (apple?), flaming sword, locked gates of Paradise
  • thorns and thistles
  • heel that crushes the devil

Advent Symbols - Noah and the Flood and Afterward

  • a big boat - the ark
  • the animals
  • the flood - clouds, lightning, rain, people drowning
  • a dove with an olive branch in its beak
  • a stone altar, the sacrifice of an animal, the rainbow in the sky
  • the tower of Babel

Advent Symbols - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

  • a bundle of wood
  • an altar of sacrifice
  • a ram with horns caught in a bush
  • angels on a ladder

Advent Symbols - Joseph and his Brothers

  • sun, moon, stars, sheaves of wheat (dream of Joseph)
  • coat (tunic) of many colors
  • deep rocky pit
  • prisoner chains
  • cows and grain stalks (dreams of ruler in Egypt)
  • sacks of grain and coins and cup in sacks

Advent Symbols - Deliverance from Egypt

  • baby in basket floating on water, hidden in reeds (Moses)
  • symbols of slavery - chains, leather straps, bricks, straw for bricks
  • burning bush
  • staff turning into serpent, serpent eating other serpents
  • frogs, bugs, bloody river, hail - any of the 10 plagues
  • sacrificed lamb
  • staffs and sandals
  • loaves of unleavened bread
  • blood on doorposts
  • pillar of fire, pillar of cloud (could use opposite sides of same piece of paper
  • walls of water (Red Sea passing)
  • horses, chariots, chariot wheels (the enemy drowned)
  • musical instruments (song of deliverance by Miriam)

Advent Symbols - Israelites in the Desert

  • quail
  • manna in baskets
  • 2 tablets with 10 commandments - also broken tablets
  • golden calf idol
  • rod striking rock giving water
  • Moses' arms outstretched during battle
  • the tents people lived in
  • the big tent of the tabernacle
  • the ark of the covenant and other items built for the tabernacle

Advent Symbols - Into the Promised Land

  • large cluster of grapes and fruits and grains (report of the spies)
  • 12 stones stacked as altar crossing the Jordan river
  • walls of Jericho falling

Advent Symbols - Time of Judges

  • lamp (Gideon)
  • hair (Samson)
  • head in purse (Judith)

Advent Symbols - Time of Kings

  • shepherd's harp
  • slingshot and 5 stones
  • head of Goliath, sword, shield
  • royal crown
  • an ancient key
  • temple (Solomon)

Advent Symbols - Babylonian Captivity and Afterward

  • chains
  • city walls
  • tears, crying faces
  • lions (Daniel)
  • walls rebuilt (Nehemiah)

Advent Symbols - Zachary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist

  • incense burner and smoke
  • angel
  • tablet with the writing "John is his name."
  • locusts, wild honey (John's food)
  • camel hair skin (John's clothes)
  • sandal (unworthy to lose sandal of Messiah
  • hands or sea shell with water, used for baptizing
  • the river Jordan
  • a lamb (John saying, "Behold the lamb of God."

Advent Symbols - Joseph the Carpenter

  • carpenter bench
  • wood
  • hammer
  • saw
  • other carpenter tools, like the axe
  • a donkey

Advent Symbols - Mary the Virgin

  • Mary kneeling and praying
  • the angel Gabriel
  • a lily - purity of Mary
  • a heart with flowers and/or thorns
  • a rose

Advent (and Christmas) Symbols - Jesus the Savior

  • the manger and hay
  • swaddling clothes
  • an ox and donkey
  • a lamb
  • a rose on a thorny stem (Rose of Sharon - Song of Solomon 2:1)

Advent (and Christmas) Symbols - the Wise Men

  • a chest of gold, or a gold crown
  • a bowl of incense, or incense in a censer
  • a box or vase of myrrh
  • camels
  • and don't forget the star

Thank your stars!

Go to Advent Reflections and Poems.

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