Monday, November 25, 2013

Jesse Tree

Just as every liturgy is both the same and yet different, I love how our festal celebrations each year are the same, yet different.  Each year that we come to a feast, we are different people, our family dynamics change as we grow from a house full of little ones to a house ranging from teenagers to newborns.  It is also beautiful to see how traditions hold up even as they evolve.  Advent has always been a time of deep traditions, and each year I love preparing with the children.  The readings for the Jesse Tree have been a part of our evening time together for many years now, though each year it takes on a new feel.

Most of our ornaments come from a swap on the Festal Celebrations board.  A few have been replaced over time with new ones created by friends in our parish.  We have played with hanging them on an ornamental tree I found at a local florist, and some years we have just hung them directly onto the Christmas tree each day.

This year, while shopping for furniture for the atrium I ran across a small bedside table.  I bought it planning to use it at church, but when I brought it home I realized it made a perfect little stand for a Jesse Tree.  I have always struggled with having a place for a Jesse Tree, one where it was visible and part of our daily life, but not in the way of meals and daily living.  This piece was perfect and fit nicely in front of a window in the living room.  We topped the table with an extra red table runner from the altar cloths, and the children went hunting for branches.  We filled a metal vase from (my favorite store) H*bby Lobby with rocks to stabilize it and arranged the branches.

The table has a drawer to hold our readings and matches for lighting the votives, and there is a place underneath the drawer which houses a box filled with all of our ornaments.

Our readings have changed over the years as well.  We began using readings from an old Orthodox publication, then used the ones created for our swap.

A few years ago, the Queen's godfather began sending us a set of readings he was writing.  They were still in the editing stages, and each day I printed them off for us to use.  Then this year he presented us with the finished version, a beautifully bound copy, complete with icon illustrations.   All dedicated to the Queen  :)  So now, we have our own meaningful set of readings, compiled with love by a very special friend.

It is easy to fall into worrying about having everything just perfect, celebrating or honoring a particular feast in a certain way.  It is good to step back and realize that life changes, and while the Church is always there, and always the same, she is made up of us, the living body of Christ, and therefore is not static.  As our small "t" traditions develop, it is beautiful to see how they grow, change and root themselves in our lives.  And while consistency is important with children, flexibility is as well.  I am trying to focus on being consistent with the things that really matter, such as devoting time to read these precious scriptures which take us on a grand journey through the history of salvation; remaining flexible with the smaller details.  The message I want my children to take away from our time together in Advent is that no moment in the history of this world was more important than that moment of the Incarnation.  And in the Orthodox understanding of the great feasts of the church, I want them to enter into the joy of that Incarnation each year with a sense of both newness and familiarity.  Each of these feasts is like an old friend.  We have travelled this road before, we recall favorite readings, traditions, moments.  But each year is also new again.  And each year we do not just commemorate and remember the Incarnation.  Through the great mystery of the Divine Liturgy and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, we are transported to that moment - chronos time ceases to exist (though some may disagree after standing through a Paschal liturgy!), instead we immerse ourselves in kairos.  How glorious to be able to enter into the Incarnation, to not just recall the greatest gift given to man, but to actually be present in that moment!


Unknown said...

Lovely! The Jesse Tree is my favorite Christmas Tradition, too.

I'd buy a copy of his readings if he wants to sell them! might be easy?

Anna said...

I will pass that along to him - he has mentioned publishing them at some point!