I love Advent. When I was a kid, my parents worked really hard to make sure that we understood the true meaning of all the holidays. They came up with all sorts of traditions to preserve the richness of the liturgical calendar in a fun and memorable way. My husband and I have carried on many of these traditions with our own children, and have added some of our own. All the kids have seemed to enjoy the Jesse Tree each year, so it’s become one of the keepers.
For those who have not heard of a Jesse Tree, it’s named after the father of King David, and it tells the story not only of the family of Jesse, but of all the people and events which helped prepare for the coming of Christ. It’s a great way to teach the kids about all the holy (and sometimes not so holy) men and women who make up our Salvation history. There are an overwhelming number of suggestions for possible ornaments, Scripture stories, and symbols, so there’s no “right” way to do it. I decided to keep it simple and just do an ornament a night all the way through Advent, starting with the Creation story, and ending with the Birth of Jesus.
I found a great little Jesse Tree kit put out by Pauline Books and Media, which had patterns, simple explanations, and Scripture verses for each symbol. I traced the patterns onto felt, and with a little fabric glue we were good to go. We use an artificial evergreen tree, since it has to last all through Advent and Christmas. We string the tree with lights to represent the Light of Christ. If I can get my act together before Advent starts, I like to wrap each ornament with tissue paper, and number them in order. It adds a little excitement, especially for the little ones, who love to unwrap each one. And it’s fun for the older ones to try to remember which story comes next. They’re memorizing history without even realizing it!
Every night after dinner, we unwrap the ornament for that night, read the scripture that goes with it (a children’s Bible works great for little ones), and then one of the kids gets to hang it on the tree. Then we sing a simple Advent song (“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is a good one) and say a little closing prayer before bed. I will admit that our schedules sometimes get a little crazy, or the kids are bouncing off the walls and I know they won’t sit through the Bible story. So on those nights, I find myself paraphrasing the stories for them, or skipping a night and playing catch-up the next night.
This year the kids were begging to get the Jesse Tree out as soon as Thanksgiving was over. Their excitement was contagious, so I thought I would try to pass it on through my blog. I decided to post a picture of each week’s ornaments, with the scripture for each, and provide a “virtual” Jesse tree for anyone who may be reading it.
Day 1: Creation — read Genesis 1:26-31 Since my artistic abilities are lacking somewhat, I decided to just go with the sun, moon, and stars, instead of trying to make the earth on an ornament.
Day 2: Adam and Eve — Read Genesis 3:1-7 Our ornament shows an apple with a bite taken out of it.
Day 3: Noah — Read Genesis 6:11-22; 9:8-13 I had fun with this one, making the rainbow over the ark, and glitter glue “waves.”
Day 4: Abraham and Sarah — Read Genesis 12:1-7, and Hebrews 11:8 This one shows Abraham’s tent, and glittery starts to represent the Lord’s promise of descendants as numerous as the stars.
Day 5: Isaac and Rebecca — Read Genesis 22:1-7 This ornament is one of my favorites. It depicts the ram which the Lord provided to be sacrificed in Isaac’s place. I traced the ram’s face and horns on felt pieces and glued them on top of shredded cotton ball which I had previously glued onto a background piece of felt.
Day 6: Jacob and Rachel — Read Genesis 28:10-22 Jacob’s ladder was the easiest thing to make for this story.
Day 7: Joseph — Read Genesis 37:1-4 Joseph’s coat was easy enough that the little ones could even help glue the pieces on.
And now, writing about this has reminded me just how much fun I have with the Jesse Tree, so I better go get wrapping those ornaments. Tomorrow night will be here before I know it!