"Arrival. That is what the word "advent" means. Only the Advent we are celebrating here is not just any arrival. It is The Arrival.
Advent is not about waiting for a baby to be born. Advent is not about waiting for a religion to be established. Advent is not about gifts or liturgy or days on the church calendar.
It is a weary, hurting world tracing the promises of God through time.
It is the groaning of mankind under weight of sin so heavy it cannot lift its head. From the first debt of sin to a voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord!", Advent traces kings and kingdoms and goats and alters in search of an everlasting hope - Emmanuel, God with us.
This is Advent: the coming of hope to the hopeless, the arrival of peace to war-torn exiles, the long-awaited exhale of freedom for generation after generation gasping for air.
Advent is the elaborate yet stunningly simple plan of God to descend to His children, to become like them in the most unexpected, unglamorous, fully human way.
This is the beginning of a great ransom story."
Anyway, those are not my words, but they became my heart. They truly struck a chord that I'm not sure had ever been struck in the same way before. I was moved and knew that advent had to be a part of our traditions not just this year, but for all Christmas seasons to come. I suddenly realized that though I've always loved Santa and the "magic of the season" it was no longer important to me at all. (I'm not trying to start an anti-Santa campaign of any kind, so please don't misunderstand my words.) I wanted to learn to anticipate freedom and redemption and Jesus and all he brings through his life, death, and resurrection the way I had always anticipated Christmas.... and I know I want to teach my children to do the same.
So, I went on a search. I decided to start working on making an advent calendar that worked for us. Not just a Christmas countdown, like so many advent calendars seem to be, but something with real meaning that "traced the promises of God through time." I had previously come across this lady's website that I'd used several times in teaching Sunday school and she had some free downloads that I wasn't sure if I'd use, but ended up saving just in case. I remembered they kind of went through the Bible from the Old Testament to New so I went back and took a look... they were titled "The Jesse Tree Advent Project." I had no idea what a Jesse tree was, so I had to read about that also. It turns out, its a really neat way to journey through scriptural events that occurred before Jesus's birth. The term "Jesse tree" comes from Isaiah 11:1-"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse: from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." This verse refers to Jesse, the father of King David, who was in the lineage of Jesus Christ. My wheels began to turn. I read and searched and read and searched. Finally, I settled on this set of printables that followed along with the Jesus Storybook Bible that we already owned and love! (If you don't know this version of the Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones and you have children, or even if you don't, you must find it!) The printables came from keepinglifecreative.com. Pam, the creator of the website, designs these beautiful digital felt images that are perfect for using on felt boards. You just print and laminate and put some felt on the back and they're perfect! The Jesse Tree set can be purchased on Teachers pay Teachers for $6.00 and then she has a free download so that you can pick just the ones that go along with the Jesus Storybook Bible. Then, with a stroke of luck, I found kelleighratzlaff.com! She has a timeline and tutorial on how to make your own Jesse Tree ornaments. Perfect!
Finally, I took all my ideas and nailed down a plan. I saw this Jesse Tree on Etsy that I really liked and tried to make my own using my new resources. Here's what I came up with
It's by no means perfect, but I made it! If you look closely, or even not so closely, you can tell the red felt that backs the tree is VERY crooked. But each piece is made from felt and hand embroidered/sewn. I look forward to using it for years to come and eventually passing it on like a family heirloom.
Here are some shots of my favorite ornaments.
I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out, even with its crookedness.
And one more picture, just because it makes my heart so happy to see hime enjoy it.