The oldest complete Jesse Tree window is in Chartres Cathedral, 1145.
“The Tree of Jesse is a depiction in art of the Ancestors of Christ, shown in a tree which rises from Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of King David; the original use of the family tree as a schematic representation of a genealogy. It originates in a passage in the Biblical Book of Isaiah which describes metaphorically the descent of the Messiah, and is accepted by Christians as referring to Jesus. The subject is often seen in Christian art, particularly in that of the Medieval period. The earliest example dates from the 11th century.
The passage in Isaiah, 11:1 is: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. In the Latin Vulgate Bible used in the Middle Ages this was: “et egredietur virga de radice Iesse et flos de radice eius ascendet ” or “.. a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up…”. Flos, pl floris is Latin for flower. Virga is a “green twig”, “rod” or “broom”, as well as a convenient near-pun with Virgo or Virgin, which undoubtedly influenced the development of the image. Thus Jesus is the Virga Jesse or “shoot of Jesse”.
In the New Testament the lineage of Jesus is traced by two of the Gospel writers, Matthew and Luke. Luke describes the “generations of Christ” in Chapter 3 of Luke’s Gospel, beginning with Jesus himself and tracing backwards through his “earthly father” Joseph all the way to Adam.
Matthew’s Gospel opens with the words: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”. With this beginning Matthew makes clear Jesus’ whole lineage: He is of God’s chosen people, by his descent from Abraham, and he is the “shoot of Jesse” by his descent from Jesse‘s son, King David. The figures shown are drawn from the genealogies in the Gospels, usually showing only a selection.” [Wikipedia]
Miniature, Jacques de Besançon, Paris, c.1485. Showing 43 generations. Below, the birth and childhood of Mary.
To learn more about the history and art of The Tree of Jesse: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tree_of_Jesse
It is worth reading and contains dozens of art images.
“The secular Christmas Tree, and the Advent calendar, have been adapted in recent years by some modern Christians, who may use the term “Jesse Tree”, although the tree does not usually show Jesse or the Ancestors of Christ, and so may have little or no relation to the traditional Tree of Jesse. This form is a poster or a real tree in the church or home, which over the course of Advent is decorated with symbols to represent stories leading up to the Christmas story, for the benefit of children. The symbols are simple, for example a burning bush for Moses and a ram for Isaac.” [Wikipedia]
This link describes how to use the Jesse Tree in your home: http://www.crivoice.org/jesse.html
Here is a great idea for families with children: You can download a printable kit to make Jesse Tree ornaments. Right now the kit is free!
During the 27 days preceding Christmas (the 27 days being known as “Advent”, as it refers to the advent or “coming” of Jesus Christ), an ornament is hung on the tree and a verse or portion of Scripture is read each night.” [from link posted above]
For other ideas on how to create a Jesse Tree or buy a kit, Google it!