Tracing Jesus’ Family Tree: A Review of The Jesse Tree Anthology

Jo Acharya | October 15, 2023

16th Century Jesse Tree from Wikipedia
16th Century Jesse Tree image from Wikipedia

There are many different ways to prepare our hearts for Christmas. Amid all the festive plans and present buying, many of us find it helpful to meditate on the narratives around Jesus’ birth, or follow an Advent devotional to help us reflect and focus on the true meaning of the season. One enduring method is to engage with the medieval tradition of the Jesse Tree, an image of Jesus’ ancestral family as a branching tree, based on Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” As an Advent practice, it involves journeying through the stories of Jesus’ ancestors in the Old Testament to trace God’s salvation plan from creation to the Nativity.

The Jesse Tree Anthology, compiled by author Rachel Yarworth, is a new Advent devotional based on this tradition. It appropriately pairs the diverse characters in Israel’s history with a diverse collection of Christian writers, to create a vivid tapestry, bringing to life familiar Bible stories and illuminating the way each one points beautifully to Jesus, the culmination of everything before and since.

Promo image for the Jesse Tree Anthology with the book cover and text reading '4000 years of history, family, prophecy, blessings and hope... all led to one world-changing birth'

Engaging Creatively with Scripture

Image of the stained glass pictures from the Jesse Tree Anthology, brightly coloured and hanging on a tree

Rachel’s direction and the thoughtful collaboration of 24 other writers (including myself) have produced a gorgeous book. It’s designed to be understood by children as well as adults, so is ideal for use as a family devotional as well as an individual one, and is suitable for mature Christians and those new to the faith. Each day of Advent begins with a Bible passage, taken from the International Children’s Bible (ICB), which leads into a one-page reflection, questions to inspire engagement, and a short prayer. Finally, there is a beautiful picture in the style of a stained-glass window to illustrate the story. These can be coloured and cut out to use as tree decorations, but perhaps a better idea is to download a free PDF of all the images from Rachel’s website, so you don’t have to destroy your beautiful book!

Image of the stained glass pictures from the Jesse Tree Anthology, brightly coloured and hanging on a tree

If you’re an avid reader, The Jesse Tree Anthology is also a great opportunity to discover new Christian writers – you may come away with several new favourites! There are non-fiction writers like Matt McChlery, whose memoir Standing in the Storm covers his journey with faith and cancer, and Liz Carter, whose brilliant book Valuable I reviewed on the blog recently, and who also designed the anthology’s stunning cover. There are fantastic novelists such as Natasha Woodcroft, whose Biblically inspired Wanderer series explores brokenness and redemption through the story of Cain’s family, and Ruth Leigh, whose hilarious and loveable Insta-mum Isabella Smugge has fully hashtagged her way into my heart. There are writers of children’s books, poetry, historical fiction, true miracle stories and more. Click here to see the full list of authors and find out more about them.

Glimpses of God’s Goodness

I have loved being part of this project. The anthology not only illuminates the Biblical stories it tells, but also expresses the individual gifts of 25 different Christian authors, each with our own personal voice and our own walk with God; each recognising different glimpses of God’s goodness throughout the Bible. I particularly love Jonathan Bugden‘s reflection on winning the King’s favour from the story of Esther, Jocelyn-Anne Harvey‘s thoughts on Noah’s ark and new beginnings and Fay Rowland‘s meditation on Joseph’s adoption of Jesus. My own piece explores the theme of quiet waiting, as Zechariah receives God’s first message after hundreds of years of silence, and then is plunged into silence himself. Each devotional in this book is a gem, thought-provoking and rich in meaning.

If you’re looking for an easy way to focus on Jesus this Advent season, either by yoursel, in a group, or with your family, The Jesse Tree Anthology is for you. It’s just £8.99 and is available to order now from our store or from Amazon. Take a journey this Advent through Jesus’ family tree, and discover how the whole story of Scripture leads to him.

Jesse Tree Anthology book cover, deep blue with a silhouette of a branching tree and a Nativity scene

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