A New Way of Sharing the Christmas Story
Here at PPC, the third Sunday in Advent is earmarked for the Children’s Christmas service – whether it’s a Christmas musical, a retelling of the Nativity, with angels, shepherds, and the wise men, or another story relating to Christmas. This year, we’ll be embarking on a new way of telling the story – through the Advent Jesse Tree. This is a tradition that we had in my church in Glenview, Ill., and I wanted to bring it to our children here in Arizona.
One of the purposes of the Old Testament is to prepare us for the Messiah – that even though God’s people would not always understand many of the events that happened to them, God’s purpose was to be revealed when Jesus came to earth. The Old Testament is filled with stories that provide history, promises, and prophecies, and they frame the reader for what is to come.
The Advent Jesse Tree allows us to journey through these stories, reliving the promises that God made, the plans that God had for us, that lead us to the birth of Jesus. It provides a totally different perspective on the Christmas story, and one with which I hope our children will connect, and give better understanding to all that God promises and all that Jesus represents.
The Jesse Tree is referenced in Isaiah, where it is said that “A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse's stump, from his roots a budding Branch. The life-giving Spirit of God will hover over him, the Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding.” Jesse is the father of David’s father. The young boy David who overcame Goliath with a stone and a slingshot, the same David who became a King – and who was terribly flawed. Why would God choose this lineage for the King of Kings? Perhaps it is because God knows that we are all flawed – that we all have gifts, but might not always use those gifts in the ways God intended. Maybe it’s because we could identify with a man who made bad choices – human error – and yet God didn’t give up on David. God continued to love him, despite his mistakes, just as God loves us, despite our mistakes. Perhaps this was also part of the promises that God made – that we will always be loved by God, and Jesus would be among us, showing us God’s love first hand.
The children have been preparing for their role in the Advent Jesse Tree, thinking about the symbols, and what their individual piece means for the prophecy of the Messiah’s birth. The stories include many with which we are familiar – Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob’s Ladder, Joseph’s Coat, Moses and the Ten Commandments… and some that are lesser known, like Josiah and the Law, Ruth and Boaz, and many prophecies that were told. This has been a neat learning experience for the children, and I hope that you’ll learn something new, too. Perhaps you’ll hear a connection between the Old and New testaments that you’ve not made before, or see how one of the events in the millennia before Jesus was born was actually a pre-cursor to the greatest gift God could share with us.
I hope you’ll consider joining us on Sunday, when the children present The Advent Jesse Tree, and that you’ll enjoy hearing an old and familiar story presented in an entirely new way. It won’t have a surprise ending - no spoiler alerts needed - Jesus is born and that birth is indeed celebrated… but the journey getting there may give pause to thinking about Christmas just a little differently.