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How to use the Jesse Tree in schools

Jesses TreeWhat is a Jesse Tree?

Jesse Trees are a very old Christmas tradition dating back to medieval times. They are used to help tell the story of the Bible from creation through to the Christmas Story. They are named after Jesse, the father of King David, and according to Chapter One of Matthew, Jesus’ Great x 14 Grandfather. This is because there is a prophecy in the book of Isaiah (Chapter 11:1-4) which is believed to describe Jesus.

The first Jesse trees were large carvings, tapestries or even stained glass windows that helped people that could not read or write learn about the God’s story. Many people now use them as a kind of Advent calendar, as they help people understand how the Christmas story fits into the whole Bible.

Our Jesse tree is designed to be used in schools, churches and homes. This means that there are some chronological discrepancies. For a full outline and timetable of the stories and symbols, please refer to the PDF document at the bottom of this page

Using this resource at school

The Diocese of York Jesse Tree resource provides schools with starting points and ideas to explore the themes of the Jesse Tree through collective worship. You can choose to do a Jesse Tree theme every day of the week through whole school or class worship or summarise them once a week.

The daily templates provide starting points for planning collective worship in the usual pattern of Gather, Engage, Respond and Send. For each theme the Engage section unpacks the story for the collective worship leader. Alongside this we have provided some suggestions for creating a focal point in the school hall and in classrooms, this includes a focus on the advent wreath.
You could produce a Jesse tree as a wall display in the hall for whole school worship and/or have smaller tress in classrooms for class worship.


The worship table and the Advent wreath

The Worship Table
Cover the worship table with a purple cloth. Explain to pupils that purple is the colour used in church during Advent, It will change to gold and white on Christmas day

The Advent Wreath
As a school also think about having an advent wreath on your worship table. The theme of each of the 4 outer candles can be linked to an overarching theme for each week of the Jesse tree.

  • First Candle We speak of hope – Christians believe God keeps his promises. (link to Abraham and Noah)
  • Second Candle We work for peace – Christians believe Jesus is the ‘Prince of Peace’ and Christians work for peace in his name. (Link to the stories of Moses, David etc and their commitment to following God)
  • Third Candle We show love – Christians believe Jesus gave everything for them. (link to week 3 and the gift of Jesus birth)
  • Fourth Candle We share joy – Christians believe the Holy Spirit fills their hearts and minds with the presence and joy of God (link to week 3 and the joy of those who announced Jesus birth and visited him)
  • Last (Central) Candle (Christmas Day) the last candle is to remember the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Advent Candle
Alternatively you may wish to get hold of an advent calendar candle – one with the days of advent marked on the side, so that you can burn one day’s worth of wax each time you have Collective worship (NB someone will need to do this on Saturday and Sundays, too – it could be a an opportunity for some pupils to be asked to take the school candle home and light it at the weekend)

Special thanks to…

  • Our colleagues at the Diocese of Bath and Wells who originally commissioned the artwork and allowed us to use the fantastic illustrations by Jon Birch at Jon Birch Media
  • Michael Wells for content, and Lesley Wells for the interactive online calendar
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