Well, Thanksgiving has past and the Advent season is soon to begin. The word advent means “coming” or “arrival”. While traditions in churches vary, the season of Advent is predominantly celebrated as a time of hope and anticipation. It is both a commemoration of the first coming of Christ, as well as an anticipation of the second coming of Christ. On the western liturgical calendar, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. In churches that formally celebrate Advent, each Sunday a candle is lit that has a specific meaning, such as faith, hope, love or joy. A fifth candle is usually lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to represent the birth of Christ. There are usually specific Scripture reading/devotions for each Sunday.

I have never been part of a church that celebrates Advent, so my knowledge of how it’s done is pretty much limited to what I wrote above. However, last year our family celebrated Advent at home, and it was truly a very rewarding experience. Before I describe what we did, I want to say a few words about Christmas traditions. We all have our own Christmas traditions. They may include certain family events, gift-giving, special meals, specific ways to decorate a Christmas tree, a reading of the Christmas story, etc. So many Christmas traditions have a “family” focus or even a secular focus (e.g. Santa) and not a “Christ” focus. And while we Christians all know the “true meaning of Christmas”, most of our time is often spent during the Christmas season finishing our Christmas shopping and eating cookies, while far less time is spent on anticipating the actual focus of the Christmas Day celebration-the birth of Christ! Of course, there isn’t anything wrong with gift-giving and eating good food or any of the other traditions, but in our family we wanted to start a Christmas tradition that focused the season on it’s true meaning.

So, last year we made a Jesse Tree to celebrate the Advent season. The Jesse tree gets it name from Isaiah 11:1, “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. (ESV)” While there are various resources on the web for making a Jesse Tree with corresponding daily Scripture readings, we followed the outline in the book Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent & Barbara Hughes. We had twenty-five Advent readings beginning December 1st and ending on Christmas Day. The readings covered biblical history chronologically from creation to the birth of Christ. Major events in the Old Testament were covered, including various prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. Each reading was accompanied by a ornament decorated with an appropriate symbol to hang on the Jesse Tree.

Our tree consisted of a bare branch from our backyard. We placed it in a large vase and filled the vase with sand from our daughter’s sandbox. Our daughter was only 2 and 1/2 at that time, so I made the ornaments myself out of cardstock and yarn. I used my magnificent artistic abilities (Ha!) to draw the symbols. Our daughter had a great time hanging the ornaments on our Jesse Tree. I’m hoping this year that she will get more out of the Scripture readings! Here’s a photo:

Jesse Tree 2006

There are many different ways to make a Jesse Tree, and it can be as elaborate as one wants to make it. While I intend to use my same ornaments this year, I anticipate our children making the ornaments in the future. What a great project! I can’t say enough about how wonderful a Christmas tradition this is to commemorate the birth of Christ.