REBECCA RYSKIND TETI
One of the nicest traditions to emerge from the quest for appropriate family devotions during Advent is the practice of putting up a Jesse Tree. You can help families start their own Advent traditions by coordinating a Jesse Tree craft swap.
You need 28 families to participate in the project. Each family commits to making 28 copies of a single ornament. Students can bring their ornaments before the first Sunday of Advent and go home with a complete set of ornaments for their home Jesse Trees. Each family can download the booklet of reading for each day of Advent, along with the list of corresponding ornaments.
My good friend, Jolene Bowman, explains why she loves the Jesse Tree tradition so much: “It is so rich with meaning and at the same time so fun for kids. I look forward to my kids growing up with a fondness for these key Bible stories in salvation history. I hope that having a real, physical ornament to see and touch symbolizing each Bible reading will help them remember the stories more vividly as they hear them year after year.”
Eileen Stevens, former director of religious education at St. Jerome’s in Hyattsville, Maryland, was delighted when one of her faith formation teachers incorporated her set of ornaments in the weekly Advent prayer services she was doing with the kids. “The children loved it,” she said. “They loved adding to the tree each week, and it was a very effective way to introduce the Scriptures on awaiting the coming of the Messiah. They learned about the chosen people and the lessons we learn from Christ’s precursors-the virtues they teach us of patience, fortitude, and faith. Hopeful waiting is such an important lesson for children.”
Rebecca Ryskind Teti is Director of Women’s Programs at Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center, a frequent speaker on prayer, spirituality and the intersection of faith and culture.
This article originally appeared in RTJ’s Creative Catechist November/December 2013.