Walter Brueggemann says that hope is rooted in memory. God has been faithful in the past and so will be faithful in the future–our hope is built on nothing less. Listen to the beautiful symmetry that flows from this couplet in Psalm 63:
Because thou hast been my help,
therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.
If I had to choose just one practice to keep Advent, I’d choose Jesse tree coloring. (And lighting all the candles and baskets of picture books and fir trees brought inside. Don’t make me pick!) The Jesse Tree invites us to step into the strange river of God’s faithfulness. We follow the winding water courses until we all finally end up at an outbuilding in Bethlehem.
One Practice to Rule Them All
But who exactly is Jesse, and what’s he doing in a tree? In the opening chapter of Matthew, the lineage of Jesus is recounted. The practice follows those stories hinted at in Matthew and takes it’s name from a line in Isaiah’s prophetic poetry:
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
Our practice centers on reading and contemplative coloring. Each day during Advent, we read a story from scripture and color a simple image. The materials aren’t complicated or messy as long as your printer has ink! Sarah Mackenzie says that reading aloud together can slow down this sometimes frantic season. Coloring just gives us an excuse to linger just a little longer, to let the stories do their work on us.
I favor this Jesse Tree collection because it includes the woman/outsider stories of Rahab and Ruth. But the images from Paper Dali are so lovely! We also have this embroidery collection because handwork is a perfect accompaniment to winter evenings. But we are taking things very slowly! This will be our third year working on it, and we’ve competed 5 ornaments.
How has reading about the ancestors of Jesus shaped you?
….and this is the introduction to the series, Rest in Advent