Saturday, November 22, 2014

Jesse Tree: Day 8

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Today we hear about the covenant that God made with Abraham.  Our reading is based on Genesis chapter 15.  It relates the story of how God called Abram out of the land of Harran and chose him to be the father of his chosen people.  We read about how Abram and Sarai were without child, yet God promised that their descendants would outnumber the stars!  We read of the fulfillment of this promise with the birth of Isaac, whose name means laughter.  We once again begin to see the path God has planned establish His people and to set forth His divine plan for the salvation of the world.  Our ornament today is from our first Jesse tree ornament swap.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Jesse Tree: Day 7

Today we read about the trials of Job.  This is one of the reading we do not have an ornament to correlate.  We plan to frame an icon of Job for next year.  Our reading comes from the book of Job, and tells how Job was a righteous man before God.  Satan wished to show that men are only faithful to God in times of good, and so God allowed Satan to submit Job to many tests of faith.  We hear how despite all of the trials he endured, Job did not sin against God, and God rewarded him.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Jesse Tree: Day 6

After God cleansed the earth, Noah and his family were called to once again spread about the earth, be fruitful and multiply.  Unfortunately, when offered the opportunity to once again follow the Lord, the people chose instead to glorify themselves.  They decided to build a tower that might reach God.  They wished to create something that could compete with the heavens, that could challenge the creation of God.  Their pride led them to build a tower, and so God confused their speech, that man might never try to come together to become like God.  Our reading tonight comes from Genesis 11.  The ornament was made by the Queen from sc*lpey clay.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Jesse Tree: Day 5

Noah and the Flood
On the fifth day we hear from Genesis 6-9.  We have heard how the first man chose to turn from God, and broke communion with Him.  Now we hear how his descendants followed the same path, descending ever deeper into darkness and further from the love of God.  This is a challenging story to read to children. It is hard to imagine the reality of this event; God wiping most of His creation off the face of the earth.  Yet, we must also recall that God offered such incredible grace and opportunity for repentance.  Noah prepared for over one hundred years.  Over one hundred years for people to repent, to turn from sin, to turn back to God.  Only Noah chose to walk with Him.  And so God made His covenant with Noah, and set the rainbow in the sky as a sign.  Our ornament for today is a rainbow created from pony beads and cotton balls, and we love how it glows in the evening light!  Our Nativity book reading continues from the previous evening, with A Perfect Christmas.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nativity Reading: Day 4

Tonight we began reading A Perfect Christmas.  It is a longer one, so we will likely spent the next couple of nights reading portions of it.  I love the illustrations by Niko Chocheli, made even more meaningful by our experience meeting him.  He is truly a kid at heart (he spent one evening with my son playing soccer with ping pong balls until close to midnight!), and I find his drawings to have an intensity and beauty that match the stories he illustrates.

Jesse Tree: Day 4

The Fall

This evening we take time to consider how humanity turned away from God.  In Genesis 3 we hear how Adam and Eve chose themselves over God.  Because of that decision, sin and death entered the world, and God's beautiful creation became ill.
The ornament for our readings is a small red satin Christmas ball, on which green felt leaves are glued.  It is a fitting reminder to us as Orthodox Christians as we enter this fasting season.  What a profoundly heavy knowledge it is, that the first disobedience of God was one of food.  It is a sobering reminder each time we are called to fast, if we take a moment to consider that little detail, and ponder how many times we choose that which we have been asked not to eat.  It is also a profound message on the healing power of striving to follow the fast.  As we submit ourselves to the church and God, we draw closer to Him.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nativity Reading: Day 3

One of my favorites.  If you are looking for an excellent book that lays out the Christmas story, answers many questions children have, and offers very theologically correct answers, this is one of the best.  A gift from the crocodile hunter's godmother, we have been reading this book for over 10 years now, and we all still enjoy it!

Jesse Tree: Day 3

ornament a lovely gift from our swap
Today we consider the creation of man.  We again contemplate Genesis 1.  God created man in His image and likeness.  He made man, unique and intelligent; not evolved from any other being.  He made man to walk with Him, to be in communion with Him.  He made humanity that we might grow to be more and more perfected, more and more like Him.  God also made man and woman that they might perfect each other.  The union of man and woman is a sacred one, ordained by God at the very beginning of creation.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Nativity Reading: Day 2

Our book for tonight was Silent Night.  It was fun to have two nights in a row of books that were hymns.  We enjoyed singing these old favorites together!

Jesse Tree: Day 2

world ornament
Today we consider the beginning of our world.  The scripture comes from Genesis 1.  We contemplate with our children the wondrous gift of creation.  God made all things from nothing.  He is the beginning of all, and without Him there is nothing.  He entrusted to Moses the truth of the beginnings of our earth, and we read those truths in the first chapters of Genesis.  In six days, God spoke, and matter came into being, obeyed His every word, and formed itself into the tangible world we experience today, albeit in a less than perfect state now corrupted by death.  Our ornaments today reflect the creation of the earth, and the creation of the sun.

As Orthodox Christians, we must be sure to communicate to our children the un-negotiable truths of the Orthodox faith.
God has no beginning, and no end.
God is the author of all of creation.
God created all things from nothing.
God made each living being of creation according to its kind, to reproduce according to its kind.
handmade from wool felt received in ornament swap

God made man in His likeness and image - man was created a unique being, evolved from no other being or creature.  He was given body, soul and spirit at his creation and was in communion with God at his creation.  

So today we contemplate the beauty and immensity of this creation.  All of creation is God's gift to us.  He prepared an immense banquet table of gifts, with us as the honored guests.  

Nativity Reading: Day 1

As mentioned before, I wrap all of our books relating to the Nativity for us to open during the fast.  It is a tradition that my kids look forward to, and one we have continued for many years.  So I am going to attempt this year to also document each book that we read.  Today, the book selected was The Little Drummer Boy.  It is a favorite here, and we love to sing along.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Jesse Tree: Day 1

I am going to try to document our Jesse Tree readings this year with photos of our ornaments.  Over the years we have participated in several ornament exchanges.  We were also gifted a beautiful bound book of readings.  The set of readings varies from our original ornament sets, so this year I am finally completing our ornaments to match our current readings.  The readings are not straight from the scripture, they are storybook form compiled and written by the queen's godfather (who I hope will consider publishing them at some point!).  But, I can share the scripture basis for each.

Our first reading:  A Shoot from the Stump of Jesse

Today we consider the beginning of this journey through the Nativity Fast, the time of preparation for the birth of our Lord, the Great Light that was long awaited by the Israelites.  We look to the promise that God revealed to His people.  The scripture reading is Isaiah 11.  We contemplate the root of Jesse, the flower that will spring from it, and wonder what/who that might be?

Our ornament is a twig from the yard with a bit of greenery and silk flower hot glued on.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Catching Up

What a busy time it has been.  Over the past few months, I have experienced some extreme highs and lows, from the international gathering of catechists in Arizona (a high) to days in the hospital with our little one with words like encephalitis and viral brain infection being verbalized (an all time low).  Intense joy and intense fear.  We have enjoyed vacations, birthdays, the recovery of motor skills in our little one, and a gratefulness for all of the simple joys of life.  I guess you could say we are having a complete immersion in "real life"!  I hope to share some of those joys with you, and look forward to the beautiful season of advent, and all of the anticipation it brings!  I hope that each of you are well, and I ask that you will keep my family in your prayers.

eta:  our little one is fine - thankfully he has made a full recovery and it appears has no lingering issues. His patron saints are Isaac the Syrian and St. John of Damascus.