This week Advent finally begins! The build up to Christmas, as we well know, can be a mixture of anticipation that we appreciate and repetition that we don’t so much. For example, most of us appreciate the power of Christmas lights in town centres, the effort people make to dispel darkness through their incredible window and garden displays and the magic that all this brings. But we might not all adore hearing the same Mariah Carey track upon entry into every shop over a 60 day period. The point about the lights is particularly interesting because light and darkness are key to the build up to Christmas through the season of Lent – as seen in the symbolism of the Advent Wreath. They are a prayerful journey through the season building up to Christmas to help bring us into that presence of God. As it gradually lights up over the weeks it is a reminder of all that has been done for us and helps prepare for the coming of Jesus, the light of the world.
I’m sure this weekend will be the green light that most of us need to finally put up trees, decorations, cribs and more, to be able to get out the Advent Calendars and begin any traditions you have. I thought I’d share with you a few other ideas and traditions I’ve found which are aimed at helping us make the most of the season of Advent:
THE GIVING MANGER
This one is particularly lovely for those with smaller children. But the idea is that you have an empty manger displayed in your crib or next to the wreath/calendars. Then for each act of kindness or good deed that a child does they are allowed to place a piece of straw or hay in the manger, so that by Christmas morning when you place Jesus in the manger there is a lovely comfy bed for him built on the kindness of everyone. It comes from an American gift set which can be bought online (search The Giving Manger on amazon or thegivingmanger.com) but I’m sure it would be easy enough to replicate it yourself.
CREATE A JESSE TREE
To explore a more biblical representation of Advent creating your own Jesse Tree is a fantastic way of picking up the tradition of a new something each day, but it’s also a lovely scriptural learning tool. Jesse Trees are a very old Christmas Tradition that first started in medieval times. They are used to help tell the story of the Bible from creation throughout history up to the birth of Jesus, the messiah. The name, Jesse, comes from Jesse who was the Father of the great Jewish King David. One prophecy in the Bible, in the book of Isaiah, says: ‘A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.‘.
The Old Testament is littered with prophecies of Jesus’ coming, and every branch of the symbolic tree tells the story of the journey of love that God had for his people. There are so many guides and instructions for creating your own online, you can use your Christmas tree and hang a decoration/ornament of a different character and their symbol each day. Or you could create a specific Jesse Tree.
HOLY HEROES – Daily updates
Holy Heroes is a free subscription recommendation I saw which offers daily emails with videos for reflection, printable activities, and feast day suggestions throughout Advent. Great for families with kids of all ages.
As streets fill with shoppers
Bright lights and tempting offers
Christmas songs and children’s laughter
You lead us along a different path
To a desert river and a Prophetic voice
A call to repentance
A call to service
A call to immerse ourselves In living water
that will never run dry
A call to prepare a way in our own lives
For the Saviour of the world to enter in
To know the touch of tender mercy
And rest in your forgiving love
For your faithful prophets
And your Living Word
We give you thanks.
Mr M Robinson