St. Clement Church all in red, during the recent Volunteer Appreciation Night. Photo by Azure Blue Photography

It’s already Wednesday! Here’s my pre-Advent to-do list:

1. Pray

This helps me remember that preparing for the birthday of our Lord does not consist (primarily) of running around like a chicken with its head cut off. A grumpy chicken with its head cut off. I need to fight for those minutes of peace and quiet when I can sit with just God, humbly asking Him to help keep me focused On What Matters. He can do greater things in those minutes than I can.

2. Find/buy an Advent wreath, three purple candles and pink candle

Having an Advent wreath is a simple yet powerful tradition that we find really creates a mood of peaceful expectation (as different from, say, a trip to Toys’R’Us). It’s a daily chance at a time when we’re all together (usually dinner works well) to stop and remember Who we’re waiting for. And something about candles mesmerizes little kids. I’ve posted the short prayer that we use as we light the appropriate candle(s) each night and Father Zimmer has shared a blessing for the wreath:

Family Blessing of an Advent Wreath
God of hope and love, we praise you for sending Jesus your Son,
to save us from our sins and to be light in our darkness.
Bless us as we gather in his name,
and bless this wreath as a sign of your unending love
and of Jesus’ presence among us.
Keep us watchful in prayer as we await his return in glory.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen!

3. Find the toy Nativity set and hide baby Jesus

Here’s our great toy one. I can’t wait until our two-year old gets introduced to it this year (I’m sure he doesn’t remember last year). We’ll see how well it can withstand the current set of little hands. Baby Jesus makes His appearance on Christmas morning.

4. Situate the wise men and the three kings somewhere far away in the house (ready for their “journey”)

5. Read about Jesse trees

Jesse Tree stained glass window, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

Having a Jesse tree is an Advent tradition that we’ve never tried before. As far as I can tell, it involves a simple tree which slowly gets decorated with ornaments that represent characters or stories from the Old Testament. Here’s a nifty chart with all the ornaments descriptions.

“Making a Jesse Tree helps us understand that many people lived before Jesus was born. They waited for him, just as we wait for his birthday now. These people were good, holy people and have interesting stories! We will read a story and think of a symbol to make, something that will remind of the person. Then we will hang that symbol on the tree, and read another story.”
Our Sunday Visitor, About the Jesse Tree

The ornaments can be as simple as cut-out colour pages or as fancy as these ones. You could also get inspired by the beautiful stained glass one from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (see above). I need to read more about it and see how we will make this tradition our own. I will keep you posted.

What are some of your family’s Advent traditions?