Monday, December 4, 2017

Advent Traditions: The Jesse Tree and the First week of Advent

 The older I get the faster time flies. We used to put our Christmas tree up on Christmas Eve and felt scandalous if we broke down and put it up a few days earlier. But now, Advent seems over almost before it starts and I've decided that to have the decorations up long enough to fill my cup to the brim, I need to start a lot earlier.

So I've embraced the Jesse Tree tradition with gusto. Putting up the tree in time for the first Sunday of Advent makes perfect sense if you are going to slowly journey through the generations before Christ's birth culminating with the coming of Christ on Christmas.

So the tree is up and during this first week of Advent we are reading the first chapter in Christ's family tree book -- Genesis. We started a few days early because we had visiting grandchildren on Friday. So we put up the tree and the oldest plugged it in as we read the creation story -- "...and God said, 'Let there be light.'" After that we read about the creation of the plants and animals: the birds of the air, the creatures of the sea, and all the land animals including the creepy crawlies. (Of course, we have a bee on the tree in honor of our apiary.) And God gave man dominion over them, the responsibility of being a good steward and caring for them with care.

The little ones loved picking out a few small stuffed animals to poke among the branches: a hedgehog, a pink piggy, several little puppy finger puppets, a teddy and a panda bear. We are saving the lion for later when we read about the prophet Daniel.

Now when Larry and I light the wreath in the evening we will include an Advent hymn and Bible passage with another ornament added to the tree to represent an important figure from the Bible.

Last night we put on apples and read about Adam and Eve and their fall. Tonight we will put on a lamb and a sheaf of wheat and read about Cain and Abel. Noah's Ark will go on later this week as well as a little bundle of sticks and a knife for Abraham and Isaac. The ladder from the "mouse house" will represent Jacob and a doll from my doll collection who wears a colorful tunic will be Joseph in his many-colored coat. The second and third weeks of Advent we will move on to Exodus, Kings, and the prophets with many characters from which to choose. We won't be able to include them all, but it will be fun to choose and think of creative ways to represent characters like Samson, Ruth and Naomi, the brave mother and her seven sons who refused to idolize the king, Esther, Deborah, Elijah,... There is no end to the possibilities.

Of course, the very short (this year only one day) fourth week of Advent will be the time for John the Baptist, Joseph, and Mary.

And the last ornament will be the tree topper -- the star of Bethlehem or an angel announcing the birth. I haven't decided which.

I've been decorating the house for a week, but I didn't want Advent to get lost in the shuffle so I decided to keep an Advent theme on the table with a purple scarf and a candle. Later I will replace it with jeweled Christmas balls, gold ribbon, and silver and gold beads

What a blessed time of year this is and how much I love to see the signs of Christ's coming increase around the house as the days go by. It makes me think of John saying, "He must increase, I must decrease."

Let us all decrease by increasing in humility this Advent while we await the coming of the Lord of the universe, Emmanuel, Lord of Lord, Wisdom Counselor, Prince of Peace.

And if you have children at home, or even if you don't, experience the pleasure of the Jesse Tree tradition. Exploring Jesus family tree and reading the stories of His (and our) Biblical ancestors can't help but enrich your Advent season.

"Come, Lord Jesus."

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