With the store displays shouting “Christmas: buy, buy, buy!” one might be tempted to despair of ever putting “Christ back in Christmas.” But family life is a golden opportunity to do so, and the Church offers us a wonderful way in the season of Advent. Marked by Churches who follow a traditional cycle of liturgical seasons, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Everyone is of course familiar with the Advent calendars offered by stores (especially the ones filled with chocolate), but Advent is much more than a countdown to Christmas! The term comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “arrival”. The focus is on the coming of Christ, both in the stable at Bethlehem and at the promised second coming.
Many of the scripture passages associated with Advent are focused on the Old Testament context for the coming of the Messiah. They are a great way for young and old to learn (or renew) their understanding of Jesus as Christ, the anointed one. An especially family-friendly Advent activity is the Jesse Tree, which makes salvation history tangible in a series of symbols and related devotions explored over the days of Advent. There are many ways to make a Jesse Tree: often a branch or Christmas tree is adorned decorated with the symbols. A good explanation of the Jesse Tree along with printable symbols and scripture references is available at http://theroadtochristmas.com.
For our Jesse Tree (it is our first year doing it as a family), I decided to make a poster version incorporating colouring, an activity my five-year old enjoys at the moment. It took about two hours to prepare, and for today’s Family Friday post, I offer up instructions in case you want to do the same!
Cut out the Jesse Tree symbols. Make little cards to fold over the symbols: I started with a pack of coordinated green scrapbooking papers, which I cut down to 3” by 6” inches and then folded into a square. Glue the symbols on the inside, punch a hole in the corner of the folded card, write the day that the card is to be opened on the outside, and the scripture references on the inside (I happened to have some punch-out number cards, so I used them on the outside).
Now cut the brown paper into strips that are wider at one end, and assemble into a tree on the bristol board (purple and dark blue are the colors associated with Advent, so I used blue bristol board).
Arrange the cards on the tree, and make small marks where the holes are. Use a knife to make horizontal slits where the marks are, long enough to poke your paper clips through. Put paper clips in the slits to make little hooks for the cards (you will need to bend the clip out a bit). Hang the folded cards on the hooks: now you have a Jesse Tree! Beginning on the first Sunday of Advent (November 29 this year), open a card each day, and discuss (in a way appropriate to your children’s ages), the symbol and the person and event it represents. Children can also color each day’s symbol, before you hang it back on the tree, this time with the cover folded back so that the symbol is open to view (if you have more than one child who likes to colour, you may want to print and cut out extra copies of the symbols).