From the Stump of Jesse: Advent is About Preparation, Not Perfection

Emily Glicksman // Tales From the Trenches


December 1  

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom (Is 11:1).

Advent is here! Oh glorious season of preparation.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy this season of waiting is the Jesse Tree. As a child, I have vivid memories of a large, green, felt, tree-shaped banner that hung in our parish church. At our school Masses, someone would read a Bible verse and pin the corresponding felt item to the tree—an apple, the ark, a ladder, a lily. 

The idea of the Jesse Tree is simple. Each day of Advent, an ornament is placed on the tree to represent a person or moment in salvation history where the faith was steadfastly kept and passed along to the next generation. 

As a mother, I love sharing the Jesse Tree tradition with my children. Not only is it a great opportunity to help them envision Biblical history progressing through the Old Testament and culminating in the birth of Our Lord at Christmas, it also helps focus our attention during Advent, which can often feel like a mad dash to buy all-the-things and decorate all-the-things before its time to unwrap all-the-things and take all-the-things down again. 

But let me be real with you. The Jesse Tree tradition is awesome and fun and inspiring, unless it stresses you out and adds one more thing to your to-do list. So, if this isn’t your Jesse Tree year, don’t worry about it. You are not a bad Catholic mom. Do not feel guilty about it. 

But, if you like this tradition and think you can pull it off more or less (trust me, some years, it’s more and some years, it’s less), then here are my recommendations:

If you already have Jesse Tree ornaments, use them. Use them even if they are not ideal, even if they are just paper ornaments that your kids scribbled on years ago, even if you shellacked them with the wrong type of Mod Podge (the kind that left your ornaments sticky for eight yearsor maybe that was just me?).

If you don’t have ornaments, buy some from Etsy. Or print some to color (or print ones that are already colored!). Be realistic. Don’t plan to make a sculpt-y ornament every day for the rest of December. It won’t get done. Know thyself, mama! 

Or if it is less overwhelming, just read the pertinent Bible passages with your kiddos and maybe color a picture to go along with the passage. Hang the pictures up on the fridge and talk about them. Can’t do it everyday? One to three times a week is perfect. 

Which stories of the Bible should you include? There are no wrong answers here, mamas. Just start with Genesis and end with Jesus. Google a list and use it. Do not compare this Catholic blogger’s list to that Catholic blogger’s list. I repeat: choose a list and stick to it.

Advent is about preparation, not perfection. Find a few small traditions that will help you prepare and let go of all the rest. If you have a hard time with letting go of the “perfect” Advent, read today’s reading from Isaiah and ask for the . . .  

. . . Spirit of the Lord to rest on you—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—So that you will delight . . .

. . . and not stress in this beautiful season of Advent.

Proclaim the Genius & Share!
  • Beautiful!
    Amen: “preparation not perfection”!
    God tells us over and over again.
    In the story of the prodigal son, God waits for the sinner to “turn toward God, and walk in the right direction” and God rushes out to meet the sinner before she or he reaches the Home.
    God does not wait for the sinner to be perfect, God only asks us to turn toward him and begin the journey… God always fills up what is lacking in our feeble human efforts. God knows our heart.

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