Jesus Tree

Talitha: “Mom, I have a tiny disco ball to hang on the Jesus Tree!”

Me: “Before you do that, you need to tell me how that disco ball relates to Jesus.”

Talitha: “Mmm…well…Jesus is the light of the world…and he shines all around…

Me: “Good. And he’s multifaceted, so there’s always more to learn about his glories.”

The Bible is filled with names and word pictures of Jesus. Every name or image is a facet of the God who is too complex and deep for us to ever know completely. But as we gaze at him from one angle and then from another, we see more clearly the whole, complete, perfect person he is. And the more we know him, the more we love him.

There is no other time in our year set aside to think so happily and thoroughly about who Jesus is and what he’s done. That makes Advent and Christmas a perfect time to put in front of us everything we can think of that reminds us of him.

While our children were very young, we did this is by using a large bare branch as a Bethlehem Tree. It was adorned with ornaments and items that picture or symbolize the Bethlehem event.

Jesus Tree

Now it has become a Jesus Tree, reaching farther for its symbolism, to include:

  • ornaments and items that represent the nativity.
  • items that relate to Jesus’ life.
  • symbols of who Jesus is, as found in Scripture’s names for him, word pictures, and parables.
  • reminders of Old Testament prophecy and history leading up to his birth.

Many of our Jesus Tree items are not ornaments per se. They are children’s creations of cloth or sticks or playdough, or we reinvented something as a symbol. For example, the lion (of Judah) is from an old zoo game; the hammer and saw (representing Jesus’ life as a carpenter) were part of a toddler’s tool set; the globe is a key ring.

The facets of Jesus are even more significant to us if we discover them ourselves. Perhaps our Jesus Tree preparations and our Advent spiritual preparation can mesh as we read through the Gospels, say, trying to find out who Jesus is.

Here’s a short list of some ideas to get you started:

A few reminders of Jesus’ life

  • Star, stable, holy family, Wise Men, and other nativity symbols
  • Shepherd (nativity visitors; he is the Good Shepherd)
  • Toy hammer, saw (he was a carpenter)
  • Nails (carpenter; crucifixion)
  • Grapes (Last Supper)
  • Praying hands
  • Thorns
  • Cross

A few symbols of Prophecy and History

  • Bible, scroll
  • Wheat (His grandmother Ruth; Bread of Life)
  • Heart (God so loved the world)
  • Joseph’s coat, Noah’s Ark (God saving his people)
  • Church

A few symbols of word pictures and names of Jesus

  • Lion (of Judah)
  • Rose (of Sharon)
  • Sun (of righteousness)
  • Sheep (Lamb of God)
  • Globe (he takes away the sin of the world)
  • Crown (eternal King)
  • Dove (Prince of Peace; he left his Spirit with us)
  • Candle (Light of World)

May God bless us as we meditate on his Word during this advent season, and may he show himself to us in new ways.

(Adapted from Treasuring God in Our Traditions)

Noël Piper (@noelpiper) is wife of John Piper, mother of five, and grandmother of twelve. She is author of Treasuring God in Our Traditions.