During the holiday season, it is easy to skip to Christmas and forget the meaningful time of advent, which means “waiting.” This month, our second graders are learning about God’s plan for redemption which we celebrate at Christmas! We hope this faith formation makes an impact on their lives and helps them grasp the importance of the whole Christmas season.
What is a Jesse Tree?
The Jesse Tree is a way of telling the story of God’s plan from the very beginning to redeem his people by sending a savior. It follows the lineage of Jesus’ family along with key people and events from the Old Testament. God uses these people to tell his story from Creation through the birth of Christ. It is a daily countdown, similar to an advent calendar. Each day has a story and a visual representation. In our case, we use a paper Christmas tree. We add an ornament each day to the tree, each ornament has a picture on it that the kids color to remind them of the story for that day.
Why do students learn about the Jesse tree?
We want the Christmas and Advent season about the anticipation of a Savior and this helps the kids focus on that. It is a great way to review some well known Bible stories, but also learn about some that are not as prevalent. It can be tough to convey just how long the Israelites waited for a Savior. They waited across hundreds and thousands of years! Working through the Jesse tree points to just how long awaited and anticipated Jesus’ arrival was. It shows that God had a plan from the beginning to redeem his creation.
One of my favorite parts of the Jesse tree is that it shows that God often chose the people who messed up, who were far from perfect to complete his plan. It shows us that God is with those who feel lost, or forgotten. As we learn about the lineage of Christ, we see that God can redeem anyone- Jacob became the nation of Israel, and his name (Jacob) literally means “trickster” and Jacob lived up to that name. Yet God chose to use him and have his nation (and the Messiah) come from the line of Jacob. There are countless other examples of God using imperfect people to complete his plan. It reminds us that we can be used even though we are far from perfect too.
How does this help students grow in their faith?
Students grow in their faith by seeing how God had a plan to redeem us from the beginning. They see how even when it seems like there are impossible situations, God can use them for good. One of the most impactful (and most challenging things to grasp) is that the Israelites waited for SO LONG for the promised Messiah. They also often lost hope and strayed from God. He always called them back and welcomed them with open arms. Each story we learn about has lessons that apply to our lives. I love the conversations that our class has as we work through the stories of the Jesse Tree.
Why do you do this around Christmas specifically?
Christmas (especially to younger kids) can tend to be about the things that we associate with Christmas, presents, Elves, decorations etc. This helps kids focus on the real reason for the Advent season– awaiting Christ. We hope that this takes some of the focus off of the things, and more on the reason.
Since we are not in school all the way up until Christmas, the students end up taking the last week of ornaments home to complete with their families. Our hope is that the families will finish reading the stories and add those ornaments to the tree as well. Some have even kept their Jesse Tree and use it every year with their Christmas decorations!
Kelsie Ruter teachers second grade at Denver Christian School. She has a Masters in Education in Teacher Leadership from Dordt University, as well as a BA in Elementary Education also from Dordt University. Mrs. Ruter loves reading, being outside, hiking, spending time with her family (husband and 3 children), and playing and/or watching sports.