Like a lot of families, we put up a “Jesse Tree” every Advent as a way of getting the kids focused on something about Christmas other than the P-word. Ours is a simple thing, a tree drawn on a cloth with some ornaments hand stitched by my wife’s mother years ago. When I began teaching Salvation History courses for college students, I brought the Jesse Tree in toward the end of the fall semester to tie a few things together. If you put up a Jesse Tree in your home, or if you’ve ever wondered what the whole thing is about, you might enjoy seeing how I approach it with my students. It’s the same thing I do at home with the kids:
A few years ago, we bought a wooden advent calendar with little doors concealing magnetic figures that can be arranged on a nativity scene:
Last year during Advent I set myself a poetic challenge: I would hide a slip of paper behind the door with each figure, and on that paper would be a rhyming couplet that said something about the figure; all the couplets together would form a coherent poem to be recited on Christmas Eve when the last door had been opened. I had to think ahead about the best order for the figures, taking into account that the biggest ones could not fit behind the littlest doors. But once the order was set, I wrote the couplets day by day, scrambling each evening to prepare the morning’s rhyme. Some mornings I made excuses to delay the morning Advent Calendar ritual and buy extra time to write!
Once the first stanza was done, my friend Peter Kwasniewski composed a Gregorian chant setting for it, in the one-note-one-syllabus style of a liturgical “sequence” like the Victimae paschali. The “Advent sequence” was a success, and the melody haunting: you can read and decide for yourself here. If you are not familiar with Gregorian chant notation, you can listen to my rendition of it here: