The Jesse Tree is a Christmas tradition where you retell the stories of the Bible and make the connections to the coming of Jesus. Usually you read one story a day starting December 1 and continuing until Christmas. A few years ago, I came across the idea of doing a Jesse Tree with picture books and loved it. I’ve been slowly working on this blog post since. I had Jesse Tree ornaments that I had made to go with Anne Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Devotional while it was available as a free PDF, so those are the stories I used. She has since updated the content and turn it into a beautiful book– Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas. It looks like it follows the same basic outline as the original, but I’m not sure.
I tried to include the best children’s picture books for each of the stories included. For the days where I couldn’t find a picture book, we are reading from the Bible or a Bible story book. I’ve been using parts of this devotional this year to tie the stories in with the coming of Jesus because I like the simplicity of the writing.
1.The Tender Branch: Isaiah 11:1-2
2.Creation: Genesis 1:24-31
I like the way this book sticks to the Biblical text, the illustrations, and the questions that help my daughter relate to what we are reading. My daughter really liked looking at the detailed pictures.
I love the illustrations in this one!
3. The Fall: Genesis 3:1-21
This book is written for older children, but the pictures are beautiful and you could improvise the text. It’s a book you children will be able to enjoy for years.
This is the store of the disobedience of Adam and Eve retold in the style of “The House that Jack Built.”
4. The Flood: Genesis 6:5-8
Noah’s Ark by Falken uses famous artwork and drawings along with Biblical text to tell the story of Noah and the Flood. I found some of the artwork to be very unrealistic, but it might be good for discussion.
Another book that looks like it is faithful to the biblical story and has nice illustrations.
This is my favorite- rich, realistic paintings and a story line that sticks close to the Scriptures.
5. Abraham: Genesis 12:1-7
- I couldn’t find a specific book for just the story of Abraham’s calling. You could read the story from the Bible or a Bible story book.
6. Sarah and Isaac: Genesis 21: 1-7
7. Abraham and Isaac: Genesis 22:1-14
This is the story of Abraham and Isaac told from Isaac’s perspective.
8. Jacob and the Ladder to Heaven: Genesis 28:10-22
This book has lovely illustrations and the story is told well.
9. Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors: Genesis 37: 31-33; Genesis 50:15-20
10. Ten Commandments: Deuteronomy 5:1-22
11. Ruth: Ruth 1:1-2:3; Matthew 1:5,16
12. Rahab: Joshua 2:1-21
I haven’t read this book myself, but I like the illustrations and it has a lot of five star reviews on Amazon. One reviewer said that the way Rahab’s career was explained was child sensitive but honest, “Rahab began spending time with people who didn’t really love her and who treated her poorly. She made a lot of bad choices.”
13. Annointing of David: 1 Samuel 16:1-13
I had a hard time finding a children’s book about David that wasn’t about Goliath. This one seems like a nice one for the anointing of David.
14. The Shepherd King: 2 Samuel 5:1-5
15. A Great Light: Isaiah 9:2; 6,7
16. Elijah: 1 Kings 18: 17-39
This is an I Can Read book, but I like the realistic art work. I didn’t know Zonderkidz made beginning readers, so this is a nice find. The others in the series have good quality illustrations as well.
17. A New Kingdom: Isaiah 11:1-9
18. Jonah: Jonah 3:1-4:4, 11
This is a faithful retelling with beautiful illustrations.
This also seems like a faithful retelling. The pretty extensive preview left me impressed.
- The Book of Jonah by Peter Spier
Your child will enjoy looking at the detailed illustrations.
19. O Little Town of Bethlehem: Micah 5:2-5
20. Esther: Esther 4:10-17
21. Waiting: Habakkuk 2:1, 3: 16-19
22. Zachariah and Elisabeth: Luke 1:5-25
23. John the Baptist: Matthew 3:1-6
24. Mary and the Angel: Luke 1:26-38
I couldn’t find a book that I liked specifically on Mary, but there are so many Nativity books available, you could use one of those for today.
25. The Birth of Jesus: Matthew 1:18-25
After previewing many, many books I finally decided this book is among the best out there. I love the beautiful illustrations. And I love the KJV wording. It brings me back to childhood Christmases where every year we would read the Christmas story aloud straight from the Bible before opening gifts.
This little Golden book is also surprisingly good with its simple yet faithful text and sweet illustrations.
Unwrapping the Miracle of Christmas
I’ve been working on this post for a while now (over a year actually), and as usual, I feel really behind in getting it posted. But as I thought about it, I thought of how fun it would be this next year to collect a few children’s Bible story books each month.
Just imagine, come December next year, having a whole stack of beautifully wrapped books. The thought of that is enough to make any book lover giddy. (And you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t a book lover, right?) But more exciting than that, as you unwrap a new book each day, you would also be unwrapping the meaning and miracle of God’s redemptive plan.
Or maybe you just want to jump in this year, using the Bible, what picture books you have on hand, or a children’s Bible story book. I know a lot of people use the Jesus Story Book Bible and the author has collected a wealth of resources that you can use with it during advent.
This post is very much a work in progress, so if you have a suggestion, feel free to drop it in the comments below.
*Original inspiration for this post comes from The Bleeding Pelican.