Most of the world will celebrate the New Year on January first. As Catholics, however, we began the new liturgical year this past weekend with the first Sunday of Advent.
My family is celebrating this time of preparation and penance with a Jess tree for the first time this year. I had heard of Jesse trees a few years ago, but not until about half way through Advent last year did, I understand the Jesse tree. The Jesse tree provides as series of lessons on Salvation History from creation until the birth of Jesus. It includes important events and people from the Old Testament and the people from the genealogy narrative in the gospel of Matthew and the Nativity narrative in the gospel of Luke. These events and people are depicted with ornaments. Our ornaments are made of paper and include scripture references.
We started yesterday with an ornament of the Earth. We read the creation narrative from the book of Genesis. We will continue today with the creation of Adam and Eve and add significant events and people including Noah and the flood, the Exodus, Jericho, Gideon, the rebuilding of Jerusalem as found in Nehemiah, Zechariah and Elizabeth, John the Baptist and the Nativity. I found an excellent list of events in A Treasure Chest of Traditions for Catholic Families by Monica McConkey. You can find this and other resources for Catholic families at Arma Dei. I also found resources at Holy Heroes Advent Adventure and at the official website of the diocese of Erie. Using all these resources, I made up ornaments out of paper.
We have chosen to hang the ornaments on our undecorated (except for lights) Christmas tree. You can do the same or you could use a branch from a tree with smaller branches, or you can find ornament trees at craft stores. The ornaments can be as simple as you like, or as fancy. Many people choose to have their children draw pictures for each Scripture verse. Others like to use clay to sculpt ornaments. There may even be ornament kits available, although I did not look for any.
I am praying that this exercise in remembering will bring my family closer to Christ this Advent season, and remind us of the reason for the season, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I hope that your family, too, will have a Christ-focused Advent.