When most people are getting excited about Christmas, I am usually getting excited about Advent. And outside of church, you don’t hear much about this special season, as people are so eager to rush straight into Christmas. When I was growing up my family always had an Advent Calendar (it’s a much more widespread custom these days and I hate seeing them called “Countdown to Christmas Calendars”). I think much later we might have had an Advent Wreath too. But most of the Advent celebrating I remember happened at my Catholic school, specifically the Jesse Tree ceremony that took place each morning after Mass. It’s one of my most treasured memories.
Years ago I was part of a church committee that as I recall had to do with celebrating in the “domestic church” (i.e. the family). The first project (it might have been the only project—it was a short-lived committee) that we did was to set up a display of Advent activities for the home. The lady whose idea this was has gone on to host successful Advent workshops right before the season for around 13 years, which are well-attended and very popular—truly a highlight of the season for our family. At the very first workshop I acquired some cut-out Jesse Tree ornaments and I sat down with my three (then!) kids to color them. We treasured these ornaments for years (all the more as the kids grew because they were so obviously colored by little hands) and used them to have our own Jesse Tree ceremony at home.
Today I’d like to share with you the meaning of the Jesse Tree and how you can incorporate it into your Advent celebration. Who was Jesse? He was the father of King David, and he’s usually considered to be at the top of Jesus’ genealogical tree. So that’s where the tree part comes from. The ornaments themselves tell the story of God’s Providence from Creation up to the coming of Jesus. What you will need:
- Jesse Tree clip art/scissors.There are many web sites that provide free Jesse Tree ornaments—some only needing to be cut out, others requiring you to color them. Do a Google or a Pinterest search to find ones you like.
- Markers/crayons or whatever else you want to decorate your ornaments with.I’m not crafty, so we used markers.
- Hole punch and ribbon to make your ornaments ready for hanging.We used the curly Christmas wrapping ribbon.
- A Bible to look up the verses that go with each ornament.If you don’t happen to own one, you can look this up online too! Some ornaments may already have a verse written on the back. You could do that, or you could plan to read the whole story each day, depending on the attention span of your kids!
- A tree.At my grade school, we used a cedar tree that later became the school Christmas tree. In our house, we used our Schefflera plant. I’ve seen sites suggesting a paper tree pasted on a wall. But I think the easiest and best for ornament hanging would be a nice dead branch with several twigs, which you could put in a bucket of sand or dirt or rocks. Just do whatever is easiest—I like my projects low in stress!
We did our Jesse Tree ceremony every evening before dinner. But you could also do it first thing each morning, or at bedtime. Do whatever works for your family. Our kids took turns, and the child of the day held up the ornament, read the verse, and then hung it on the tree. Sometimes we had a little discussion to explain the context of the verse. If your kids aren’t readers yet, you can read the verse. Or you can just explain its importance: e.g. Creation—God made the world; Adam and Eve – God made us and loves us; Fall of Man – people disobeyed God; et cetera. This is an easy project that serves two purposes: reminding kids of the “reason for the season” while also helping them count down the days! Enjoy!
This post originally appeared on my friend Lacy’s blog. Lacy is no longer blogging but you should check out the beautiful necklaces she is making!