Keeping Advent well has always been something of a challenge for me. I find it difficult to simply "live in the moment" of the season - maintaining a spirit of silence, of waiting, of prayerful penitence, not only because of the holiday hustle and bustle that invades stores, radio stations, internet, and even my inbox immediately after All Hallow's Eve, but also because the celebration of Christmas (in my life at least) requires a certain amount of planning and preparation: making baking plans, grocery lists, devising ways to celebrate the holiday creatively, etc., etc., etc.
Part Two: The Growth And Bloom Of The Jesse Tree
This year, we finally managed to add an Advent tradition, which has been a tremendous assistance for maintaining the prayerful attitude of the season: the Jesse Tree.
Our Jesse Tree project began around the same time as the Advent wreath adventure, and fortunately required similar base materials. With the wreath leftovers, I constructed (i.e. yarned together) a tree of sorts, "potted" it (with the aid of some newspaper), and since it was looking a wee bit bare, added some "foliage". It turned out to be a mixed species of a Jesse Tree (and my husband thought the flora should have been pruned back slightly), but I've found myself appreciating the tree's rather homely look.
Catholicculture.org has an excellent introduction and resource for creating a Jesse Tree, which is what I've used as a format for our ornaments. Since our little one isn't quite old enough to assist with the construction, and my husband is completely occupied with his studies at the moment, I've been the ornament factory. Each Sunday, I sit down to make the ornaments for the next week. Jesse Tree ornaments can be as simple or elaborate as one would like - and for this year, I've opted for sketching and simple water colors. On one side, I've drawn the symbol/image for the day (usually following the suggested ideas, but sometimes coming up with my own), and on the reverse the figure, accompanying Bible verse, and date (in the event that we may need to use them again in future years).
Each evening, we sit down to first read the selection from Scripture, and then Daddy and Baby hang the ornament. The readings for each day have taken us on a whistle-stop tour of salvation history, and then from this Saturday until Christmas will be based on the O Antiphons. The whole process is a daily, tangible reminder of Israel's anticipation of the Messiah, and I am fairly certain is something that is on its way to being a family tradition.
Here are a few photos of this year's Jesse Tree: