The lights on the Christmas tree twinkle through the dozens of small, glitter-filled ornaments, each in their own way representing something special to someone. We were going to be selective in which ones we chose to hang this year, because of the sheer volume of ornaments each Love Bug claims. But when the time came to decorate, out flowed memories, stories and love that it was just too difficult to be selective. Thus many of the branches are burdened by multiple ornaments. As I gaze upon this tree which the Love Bugs have declared is "the most beautiful tree we have ever had" (it is the same artificial tree we have put up for the last 10 years), it is representative of what is swirling around in my head and heart, made evident especially during this time of year. As we attempt to live and celebrate within the absence of our Loved ones, we still cling to the ways in which we know - our traditions. They unite us to our past and draw us close within the present. They are often the foundation of the stories that get re-told over time, and no matter how often one hears them, we never tire of them.
Our Jesse Tree
About 4 years ago, we decided to incorporate a Jesse Tree into our family prayer during the season of Advent. The symbol of the Jesse Tree comes from Isaiah 11: "The royal line of David is like a tree that has been cut down; but just as new branches sprout from a stump, so a new king will arise from among David's descendants." The tree is named after Jesse, the father of the great King David. Beginning with the Creation story, and each night thereafter, we read from scripture and hung an ornament which represents a person or event in salvation history. By reflecting on salvation history, we see how God prepared the world for the coming of His Son.
In addition to our Jesse Tree, we also lit our Advent Wreath during meal time and continued with adding straw to Jesus' manger for good works completed each day. I thought maybe the older kids would have found the straw activity to be a bit "young", but they looked forward to adding their straw each day, helping to prepare a bed for the Baby Jesus.
I have said it before and I will say it again, I love Advent. I love that the Church has this time of preparation and reflection. I love how our faith teaches us that Christmas has little to do with decorations and holiday prepping, and everything to do with preparing our hearts. In this ridiculously fasted paced, secularized world we live in, we need more of the latter.
As the world around us was asking, "are you ready for Christmas?", really inquiring if our tree was erected, cookies baked and cards sent, my answer, truthfully, was twofold. No, according to the world, we were not ready for Christmas. Liturgically, however, we were a work in progress. Our family focused on reflecting on salvation history and trying to do more good works. We celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We celebrated each Sunday of Advent, especially Gaudette Sunday with great joy. We didn't skip Advent, we tried to live it. Trust me, it wasn't always easy.
Our Christmas Tradition
The Christmas season began on Christmas Eve and will continue through the Baptism of our Lord - the first Sunday after Epiphany. We put our tree up and decorated it on Christmas Eve morning. It will stay up the duration of the season, as will our Jesse Tree, a reminder of where we have come from, pointing us in the direction of where we hope to go. Now that Jesus has come, our lives will hopefully be a reflection of who He is: Wisdom, Lord of Israel, Flower of Jesse, Key of David, Radiant Dawn, King of the Gentiles, Emmanuel - God with us. It is not enough to just celebrate these traditions, but to embrace and live them, not only during the Christmas season, but throughout all time.
May this season be one filled with Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Merry Christmas!