For several years now, I have posted a daily Advent calendar of images and reflections on my blog, and you can find them linked from ‘Advent’ in the ‘labels’ on the sidebar to the left.
Next Sunday is the start of Advent, the beginning of a new year in the Christian calendar. Advent is a big deal in our family. We use this season as a journey towards Christmas, in ways that help us to remember – to enter-into – the story. Over the years we have built up certain family traditions, some of which have been passed on to us by other people, and some of which we pass on again, so that other people can start to build up their own traditions.
We have a small Christmas tree made of bare twigs, and this year we will have a go at using it as a Jesse Tree. One of the prophetic descriptions of Jesus in the Bible is the root / shoot / tree of Jesse – see Isaiah chapters 11 and 12. Jesse was the father of King David, and this title points to Jesus’ human ancestry descending from David, and God’s promise to David that one of his descendents would sit on the throne forever. A Jesse Tree symbolises Jesus, and on it a different ornament is hung each day from 1 December to Christmas Day, each ornament reminding us something about Jesus. As each ornament is hung, verses are read out that tell of that aspect of who Jesus is.
For anyone who would like to do something similar, here are some suggestions for decorations / verses / other prayers you could use:
A star: John 1:1-9.
An angel: Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:8-15.
A trumpet: Advent not only looks back to Jesus’ coming into the world, it is also a season of looking forwards to his coming back again. Revelation 11:15.
A bauble: representing the world. John 1:9; John 3:16-21.
A present: Matthew 2:9-11; Romans 5.
A Father Christmas: a common tree decoration, Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop, who is remembered on 6 December, with this prayer.
A wise man: Matthew 2:1-12.
A soldier: a common tree decoration because of the Nutcracker Suite, points to Jesus as Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6-7.
A shepherd: Luke 2:8-20.
A manger: Luke 2:1-7.
(This list is not exhaustive, leaving room for you to come up with your own ideas / match to your own decorations.)
There are seven very ancient prayers that Christians have used in the week before Christmas, which also lend themselves to a Jesse Tree. With links to the prayers, they are:
A dove (symbol of wisdom)
A candle (making the tree a burning bush)
A Christmas tree (root of Jesse)
A key (key of David)
A star (bright morning star)
A king (king of the nations)
God-with-us (Jesus, with Mary and Joseph)