Observing Advent – Our Bilingual Chinese-English Jesse Tree (耶西樹)

中英雙語基督降臨日曆
Last year, we had wanted to observe Advent with a Jesse Tree, in part because the visuals will be more easily understood by young children.

What is a Jesse Tree?

The tradition of Jesse tree is a very old one, and started hundreds of years ago. Through pictures, visuals or symbols, it tells the story of God’s plan for salvation,  starting with creation, and continuing to the birth of Jesus. The name of the Jesse tree, came from the prophecy in Isaiah 11:1.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. – Isaiah 11:1 (NIV)

從耶西的樹幹必生出一根嫩芽,從他的根而出的枝條必結果子。- 以賽亞書 11:1  (CNVT)

从耶西的树干必生出一根嫩芽,从他的根而出的枝条必结果子。- 以赛亚书 11:1 (CNVS)

Jesus is this new branch that came from Jesse.

In the old days, the Jesse tree was often depicted in tapestries, stained glass windows, and manuscripts. During this time, although most people could not read, but can still learn about the bible stories through this visual representation. You can read about the history, and see some beautiful examples of medieval Jesse tree on Wikipedia. 

Today, Jesse trees are similar to an advent calender, with with illustrated ornaments to represent the people, prophesies, and events leading up to the birth of Jesus. We found it a good way to tell the story of the faithfulness of God across thousand of years of history and God’s grace and mercy in an understandable manner for young children

Choosing A Jesse Tree

There are plenty of Jesse tree ornaments, both for sale (have a look at Etsy) or if you would like to DIY, or to print out.
We wanted a bilingual Jesse tree, as English is our dominant language, and it was important that I understood what I was reading and meditating on. But I had  wanted to incorporate Chinese, so that we will also learn more Chinese terminology. What I did was to find an existing Jesse tree, and translate what I could into Chinese
After much deliberation, we had decided on these printable Jesse Tree ornaments from faithforward as we liked their accompanying devotion.
These can be downloaded from their website for free:

1   Twenty-Nine Ornaments – choice between 3inch ornaments or 5 inch ornaments, coloured or outline versions

2. Daily Family Devotions – We used this, with the ornaments, as it helped explained via the symbols, how God prepared for Jesus’s birth for many generations. There are four sections:

  • Read – scripture verses
  • Listen
  • Wonder (Meditation)
  • Pray

3. Daily Personal Devotions – devotions for teenagers or adults.

Jesse Tree toolkit –  includes a basic overview of the Jesse Tree tradition, ideas for making your Jesse Tree and ornaments, and a suggested schedule of Bible passages and symbols.

 

Including Chinese into our selected Jesse Tree

To include Chinese into these ornaments, I picked a Bible verse for each day’s devotion in English and Chinese (NIV and CNV Bible) and created the below printables, which can be used with the above Jesse tree, or on it’s own, or with your own drawings.
Jesse Tree Bible Verse Traditional Chinese Cantonese with Jyutping

You can download the bible verse printables in Chinese:

(*If there is sufficient demand, I can also create a pinyin version too.
Edit to add: Have created a Simplified Chinese version with pinyin)

You can stick them onto the back of the corresponding ornaments, or you can use them separately and draw a picture on the back of the ornament.

It was good that we started incorporating some Chinese into the activity. Although as a family, we worship in English, learning these Christian terminology will be helpful.

Bible verses used are from New International Version (NIV) and Chinese New Version (CNV). (To learn more about different Chinese bible versions, click here.)

Reflection: 

Decorating the Jesse tree and doing the devotions as a family helped keep our focus on the true meaning of Christmas. It reminded us of God’s plans and his faithfulness, of how he has plans for us, plans to prosper us and give us a future. We plan to continue this tradition for the next few years.

 

How are you observing Advent this Christmas Season?

Are you having an Advent calendar this year? Please share what you are doing this Advent!

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Observing Advent – Our Bilingual Chinese-English Jesse Tree (耶西樹)

  1. Helena L says:

    Hi! Thanks for the amazing resource. Would you also include the pinyin version for “Jesse Tree Advent English and Simplified Chinese Bible verses (For Cantonese and Mandarin speakers)” Thank you so much again in advance!!

  2. Tim says:

    Thanks for the Jyutping, I’ve struggled with explaining Christian concepts to my kids in Cantonese and this will help me learn.

    • Cantonese For Families says:

      Hi Tim, I am glad it helps! I’ll create more Cantonese Christian materials in the new year. Have a Blessed Christmas:)

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