Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Celebrating Epiphany: Music, Foods, Crafts, and a Game to Play

star of wonder


Jesse's Song

If you've shared Star of Wonder about the young shepherd who saw the star and led the way,  "Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow" would be a fun song to follow up with, but it's great fun no matter what! It's an American folk song, easily found online at such places as hymnsite.com (music and lyrics), or on YouTube (videotaped performance). 

Star caroling

As the children learn the song, consider having them actually play follow the leader: Put a star on a stick to lead the way, with the children passing the star along after each refrain so everyone gets a chance to be the leader. This tradition of gathering in groups to follow a star while singing Epiphany carols is called "star caroling." Make your star caroling as lively and festive as you like; consider having an adult as the first leader, setting the stage for creative adventuring by taking the children over and under furniture as they follow the star.

Shepherd Costumes

Because Epiphany is a holiday with a tradition of performance, consider having the children make easy shepherd costumes using extra-big t-shirts or pillow cases with arm holes, tied at the waist with a scarf, necktie, or other length of fabric. Then when they parade around singing "Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow" they'll look like a band of shepherds and shepherdesses. 

on the loose in boston

Royal costumes and caroling

In honor of the Three Kings, those three strangers that Jesse welcomes, you could also teach the children "We Three Kings" and use the same star to lead the way on another costume parade. If you aren't sure of words or tune, you can see it sung here, with printed lyrics or look at Jennifer Avalon's video. To turn shepherds into kings and queens, have each child make a crown, and then, for a royal robe, tie or pin a towel over the shoulders, or make simple capes out of scraps of fabric, held together with snaps, velcro, or pins. Once again pass the star around so the children get to take turns being the leader. 

Combined caroling

Another option is to have the children choose one costume to create, and have a parade of both shepherds and royalty as the children parade from room to room—even outside if the weather is good—singing both songs alternately

House Blessing

Since Epiphany used to be one of the holidays when families would bless their homes, you might consider closing the parade with a blessing of each room in your home, stopping for the children to give thanks for the good things that happen in each space. Weather permitting, you could conclude by circling the outside of the house or apartment building, still following the star, singing the Doxology as a way to bless the place:
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise God, all creatures here below;
Praise God above, ye Heavenly Host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
(For those like me who can't actually sing, star caroling may be more of a "joyful noise" than what anyone would call "music," and I admit that I usually stick with "We Three Kings" because it's more familiar, but it can still be fun, and as children learn the words and tune, their voices will carry you along.) 


For a family game, you could have the children play "Journey of the Magi" by taping a star to the wall, blindfolding them one by one, spinning them gently, then seeing who ends up closest to the star (hence the Holy Family). The child who comes closest to reaching the star could then be the first to lead the star caroling (or the second, if you want an adult to begin). 

Marking the door

Another Epiphany activity is to decorate your front door with the initials of the three kings sandwiched between the numbers of the new year, for example 20 + C + M + B + 13 for 2013. The initials of the magi—Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar—also represent the motto "Christus mansionem benedicat"—or, "May Christ bless this house." If marking the door doesn't work for you, children can write on the sidewalk or street out front. 

After the children finish decorating the door, you can say the words, "May Christ bless this house," or you could do a more formal house blessing

Marking the door

For additional ideas to help celebrate Epiphany, visit theworshipwell.org 



Because Epiphany celebrates Jesus' manifestation to the whole world as represented by the Three Kings who came from different continents and cultures, a festive Epiphany meal should include a variety of foods from around the world. Select a few easy recipes for ethnic dishes that the children could help prepare. 

Snack: curried peanuts

One easy—and happily noisy—snack you might try is curried peanuts: just pour a jar of dry roasted peanuts into a paper bag, add a teaspoon or so of curry, and have them take turns shaking the bag. (If the children find the taste too strange, suggest that they each put a small amount in a plastic baggie, tie it with a pretty ribbon, and give it as an Epiphany present to a favorite adult.) For older children you might try a more sophisticated recipe that involves some frying. 

on the loose in boston

Soup: peanut butter soup

Make an easy version of peanut butter soup from West Africa (simply blend of one cup peanut butter, one cup milk or cream, and four cups of chicken or vegetable broth, flavored, if you like, with sautéed onions and cayenne pepper). Or try a traditional butmore complex African chicken and peanut stew. 

Main course: stir fry

Help the children prepare a Chinese stir fry. If they're too young to help cut up vegetables, you can use already cut-up frozen vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, sugar snap peas, and whole green beans: have the children put them in a strainer and run hot water over them for a minute, drain well, and pat dry with paper towels. Stir fry the vegetables quickly in a frying pan or wok, adding cut up meat, poultry, or fish if desired; season the dish with soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and a little honey. Top the stir fry with sprouts if you like, and serve with rice. Another easy stir fry recipe can be found here. Or, for vegetarians, try a simple recipe for tofu and vegetable stir-fry with ginger

Bread: crescent rolls with hidden messages

Adapt the Chinese fortune cookie idea by rolling up lines from Scripture or from Epiphany carols or other simple messages inside crescent shaped dough. Some sample fortunes are:
* "You are the light of the world"
* "Follow your star"
* "God's angels are with you"
* "Take delight in the Lord, and you shall have your heart's desire"
* "Arise, shine, for your light has come."
Type the messages and cut them into strips. For the dough, you can use your favorite bread recipe, frozen dough, or refrigerated crescent dough in a tube. 

If you start with the tubes of crescent roll dough, follow the directions for separating the rolls, brush them with butter, then place the folded messages at the wide end of the triangles, then roll them up, starting at the wide end; bake as directed on the package. 

Working with homemade or frozen (defrosted) dough, roll it out into circles about one quarter inch thick, brush it with melted butter, cut the circle into 8 or 12 triangles, fold the typed messages in half or thirds and place them at the wide end of the triangles, then roll them up, starting from the wide end. Curve each roll into a crescent moon shape. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the rolls on a greased cookie sheet, let rise for 20 minutes, then bake until nicely browned, about 15-20 minutes. 

Dessert: Epiphany cake, sometimes called a King Cake

For a basic version, use any spice cake recipe baked round, either in a tube pan or two round layer cake pans, topped with a dairy-based frosting: whipped cream, cream cheese, or sour cream. Or you can try a French version, or a Spanish "King Cake."

It's traditional to bake a dried bean—or an almond—into the cake, and the one who gets the bean is then hailed as King or Queen. Besides being given a paper crown to wear, the King or Queen can be the first to name the best blessings of the past year—a nice way to close the meal, with everyone naming blessings. 

This meal includes foods from the three continents of the Kings: Africa, Asia, and Europe—but feel free to experiment with plenty of other ethnic dishes as well. 

Decorating for the meal

For additional crafts, you can have each child make a star shaped name card to put at his or her place at the table for the Festal Meal, or you could have them make ornaments for next year's tree. (If you have kept the Christmas greens until Epiphany, also take time during the day to put away the tree and other ornaments; if the children want to display their new decorations, you could make them into a mobile by suspending them on different lengths of thread from a coat hanger.) 


In Star of Wonder, Jesse pressed his hand into fresh snow to make a star shape. Instead of making star-shaped name cards, you might want to consider buying a plain white paper tablecloth (sold in most supermarkets and discount stores) and have the children decorate it with finger-painted handprints in a variety of colors.

Apple stars

The children can also make star prints made from cut apples. To make apple star prints, fold paper towels and put them in foil pie pans; soak the paper towels with tempera paint; cut an apple in half crosswise to reveal its star-shaped core; press the cut apple to the paper towel and then to the tablecloth. Tape the tablecloth to the table—or the floor—to keep it in place while the children work. If you do this at the table itself, each child could make a star print or a handprint right in the place where he or she will sit for the meal. 

For more detailed directions, visit the apple star stamping page at ICanTeachMyChild.com.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Carrying Christmas into Epiphany: Celebrating the Rest of the Season!

Merry 6th Day of Christmas! A week from today, on Jan. 6th, it will be time to celebrate Epiphany, a great way to extend the season with family and friends! Later this week, on Thursday, I'll post some ideas for games and foods and music for Epiphany, but today I'm offering a little background along with some of the legends and traditions associated with the season. You can find more about Epiphany on the website for the book Star of Wonder  -- which is where these illustrations are from. (This would be a perfect book to share with children as part of any Epiphany celebration.) 

Why Celebrate Epiphany?

The joyful energy of Epiphany has always inspired games and pageants, music and meals. It's a multi-cultural celebration because the Three Kings who followed the star to find the Holy Child came from different cultures and continents. 

star of wonderEpiphany comes at the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas—on January 6th. Although American tradition focuses on Christmas Day as the primary day to give and receive gifts, in some southern European and Latin American cultures, Epiphany is actually the accepted time for gift-giving. Instead of expecting Santa Claus to deliver presents on Christmas Eve, children wait for the Three Kings to bring them gifts on Epiphany. 

When my children were little, I could never finish all my shopping and planning by Christmas Day, so spreading out the celebration between Christmas and Epiphany became a happy solution (besides, it let me take advantage of post-Christmas sales). It also helped refocus Christmas Day on the Holy Birth instead of just the glut of presents. 

Epiphany comes after older children are back in school, so it can feel like a special treat to have the holiday season extend into "ordinary time."

And if, by chance, you are separated from your children (or grandchildren) on Christmas itself, you still have the chance to share this very special holiday together.

star of wonder 


Epiphany celebrations throughout the centuries: Epiphany is one of the oldest Christian holidays, celebrated since the second century in the Eastern Church. In its early years, Epiphany was a double celebration honoring both the birth and the baptism of Jesus. The Syrian church maintained a combined festival, seeing the baptism as Jesus' "spiritual birth," and in some places Epiphany is still called "the holiday of the second birth." 

star of wonderThe Western Church adapted Epiphany to focus on the visit of the Magi, wise men (often called "kings") from afar who were able to interpret the stars. The whole Epiphany season celebrates manifestations of Jesus to the world; seasonal readings in the Western Church begin on January 6, Epiphany Day, with Matthew's account of the visit of the Magi, while the following Sundays in Epiphany include readings about Jesus' baptism by John in the Jordan, his first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana, and the miraculous feeding of 5000. 

For the shepherd boy Jesse in Star of Wonder, holding the hand of the infant Jesus is his Epiphany, his "aha!" moment of recognizing the Holy Child. 


Festival of Light

star of wonder

Because of the bright star which led the Magi to the Holy Child, Epiphany also became a festival of light.

This was especially evident in the huge bonfires in the center of each village as everyone brought Christmas trees to be burned on Epiphany Day, singing,
Farewell to thee, O Christmas tree!
     Thy part is done
     And thy gifts are gone,
And thy lights are dying one by one.
Remnants of this tradition endure in places that still have a Christmas-tree-burning on Epiphany; when my children were little, they looked forward to "the beautiful fire" at the town dump as part of our Epiphany celebration. 

Good-bye to the tree

Good fortune was said to come to those who kept their Christmas greens until Epiphany. One European tradition connected to this belief was called "Plundering the Tree." On Epiphany, villagers would go from house to house and dance around their neighbors' trees, then eat the last of the Christmas treats. The hostess would have taken the ornaments off the tree and set them in piles around the room, and each guest would choose a pile to take home to use next year; in this way, Christmas decorations circulated among the whole village year by year. At the end of the evening, all the plundered trees were taken to the center of town and burned. 

Plays and parties

Although the visit of the Magi on Epiphany was celebrated with a certain solemnity during the Middle Ages, it became an occasion for wanton frivolity during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I—so outrageous, in fact, were the antics presided over by the Lord of Misrule that the Puritans rejected not only Epiphany but Christmas as well because the whole holiday season seemed to have lost religious significance and become an excuse to party. Epiphany was celebrated at court with jesters, jugglers, music, storytelling and plays. In France, the performer who received the most applause was clothed in a scarlet robe and crowned as King, reigning over the evening's festivities. Performances of one sort or another remain part of the Epiphany tradition even into more recent years. "We Three Kings," the well-known Epiphany carol, was actually written as part of a pageant at General Theological Seminary in New York City. 


star of wonder 

The Three Kings on their journey

In Matthew's original account of the Magi, no specific number of wise men is given. Although Syrian tradition says there were twelve wise men, most note only three—based on the three gifts they bring of gold, frankincense, and myrrh—and most traditions name them as kings. 

Tertullian writes of Epiphany as the "festival of kings." In the "Armenian Childhood Book," an apocryphal writing from the end of the sixth century, the Magi are called three Persian kings, and an angel—not a star—shows the way. 

The Venerable Bede, who died in 735, called the Magi "kings" and gave them names: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. He also established their backgrounds as being from the three known continents: Europe, Africa, and Asia.

The Three Kings in later life

According to legend, St. Thomas the Apostle late in his ministry found the three Magi and baptized them as Christians. He ordained them to the priesthood and then as bishops. At the end of their lives, the star which led them to Bethlehem appeared again and reunited them. Their remains were brought to Constantinople in the fifth century, then to Milan, and finally to Cologne in 1164. Their shrine in Cologne is still popular among pilgrims. Since the Magi are known for their journeys, they are often named as patron saints of travelers. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Jesse Tree finale: the Story of John the Baptist

Elizabeth was Mary's relative and a descendant of Aaron, but like Sarah she had grown old without having any children. Her husband Zachariah was a priest, and one day as he was burning incense in the temple, an angel appeared to him and told him that he and Elizabeth would have a child. Their son was John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus, and who baptized Jesus at the start of his ministry:  
     "Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized [by John] and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove."

Luke 1:5-24, 3:21-22

Potential ornaments for the Jesse Tree: a bee (because John ate wild honey), a dove (for the Holy Spirit)

This is the last posting for the Jesse Tree. Tomorrow begins a new chapter in salvation history: the birth of Jesus, the Holy Child who became our Savior. The long wait is over; Christmas is here. May the blessings of this holy season bring peace to your hearts and your homes. 

For those wanting to extend the Christmas season, on Monday I'll post some suggestions for Epiphany activities, games, and foods. Enjoy the full 12 Days of Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Jesse Tree: the Story of Joseph and the Angel

Joseph, a carpenter, was a descendant of the great king David. He was a good and righteous man, engaged to Mary. When he learned that Mary was pregnant, he was greatly troubled -- but an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." And so Joseph married Mary, and they traveled together to Bethlehem where Jesus was born.

Matthew 1:18-25

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a saw

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Jesse Tree: the Story of the Annunciation

Many years after the people of Israel had returned from Babylonian captivity to their own land, Rome claimed Israel as part of its Empire. It was during this time of Roman occupation that God sent the angel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth in Galilee "to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary." The angel told Mary that she had been chosen by God to bear a child, "and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High...the Son of God." Mary answered the angel by saying, "Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."


Potential ornaments for Jesse Tree: an angel, a lily (symbol for Mary)

Jesse Tree: the Story of Daniel in the Lions' Den

During the time of exile in Babylon, the Israelite Daniel served under King Darius.  When the king signed a law that any  person who prayed to anyone, divine or human, besides the king himself should be "thrown into a den of lions," Daniel continued to pray to God.  He was caught by men who were jealous of him and brought before the Babylonian king.  Now King Darius was distressed because he liked and respected Daniel, but the jealous men reminded him that no law the king had made could be changed, so Daniel was thrown into the lions' den.  The king spent the night fasting, and in the morning "the king got up and hurried to the den of lions."  Daniel was alive!  He said to King Darius, "My God sent an angel and shut the lions' mouths so that they would not hurt me."  The king freed Daniel and threw his accusers to the lions instead.  Then he wrote to all his people, advising them to "tremble and fear before the God of Daniel:  For this is the living God, enduring forever."

Daniel 6

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a lion

Friday, December 20, 2013

Jesse Tree: the Story of God's New Covenant with the People in Exile

During the time of exile, when the people of Israel had been captured in war and taken away to Babylon, the Lord spoke to them through the prophet Jeremiah.  Even though it was their disobedience that had led to their captivity, God grieved over the people of Israel and promised a new covenant, a new beginning:   "It won't be like the covenant that I made with Moses and Aaron and Miriam and all the Hebrew people when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.  This time I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

Jeremiah 31:33-34

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a heart

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jesse Tree: the Story of Elijah and the Ravens

Many years after David reigned, Ahab became king of Israel.  He was an evil king: "Ahab did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than had all the kings of Israel who were before him."  Ahab even let his wife Jezebel talk him into serving false gods.  During this time, the Lord spoke through the prophet Elijah, telling Ahab that because of his wickedness "there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word."  The land became dry and parched, but God sent Elijah to live in the wilderness east of the Jordan River, and God sent ravens to bring food to Elijah every morning and every evening.  The drought lasted three years, and in all that time, God continued to look after Elijah.

1 Kings 17:1-7

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a raven (or any black bird) 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Jesse Tree: the Story of David's Anointing

The boy Samuel grew up to be a great prophet.  At this time, Saul was king over Israel, but Saul had stopped paying attention to what God wanted.  So God spoke to Samuel: "How long will you grieve over Saul?  I have rejected him from being king over Israel.  Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided myself a king among his sons."  (Jesse, remember, was the grandson of Ruth and Boaz. He's also the one who gives the Jesse Tree its name.)  So Samuel went to Jesse's house in Bethlehem.  God said to Samuel, "The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."  Instead of choosing any of the older, stronger sons, God chose the youngest boy, David, saying to Samuel, "'Rise and anoint him; for this is the one who will be the next king.'  Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward."

1 Samuel 16:1-13

Potential ornaments for the Jesse Tree: a horn of oil, a crown

Jesse Tree: the Story of God's Call in the Night

Samuel was a young boy who served God in the temple under the direction of Eli, an aging priest.  One night Samuel heard a voice call him by name in the darkness, "Samuel!  Samuel!" and he said, "Here I am!" and rushed to see what Eli wanted.  But Eli had not called him.  This happened three times.  "Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy," so he told him next time to answer, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."  And the next time Samuel heard his name called in the night, he answered to God, and was given a vision of the future.

1 Samuel 3:1-18

Potential ornaments for the Jesse Tree: an oil lamp, a candle

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Jesse Tree: the Story of Ruth

Long after the Israelites had settled in the land God gave them, another famine struck.  An Israelite woman named Naomi moved with her husband and two sons to the land of Moab to find food.  Her sons married Moabite women.  Then Naomi's husband and both sons died, so she prepared to send her daughters-in-law back to their own families and to go back to the land of Israel alone.  One of her daughters-in-law, Ruth, insisted on going with her, however.  She said, "Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God."  So Ruth went with Naomi into the land of Israel, and there she met a relative of Naomi, named Boaz, as she was gathering grain in his fields.  Ruth and Boaz were married, and their firstborn son was grandfather to the great king David.

The Book of Ruth

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a stalk of grain, ear of corn

Jesse Tree: the Story of Rahab's Willingness to Help

The Israelites wandered forty years in the desert in search of the land God had promised them.   During all this time, God looked after them, feeding them with manna from heaven.  Moses died just before the Israelites finally entered the Promised Land, and Joshua became the new leader of the people.  Joshua sent two men to look over the city of Jericho within the Promised Land.  The king of Jericho found out about the coming of the Israelites and planned to have them killed, but  Rahab, who was a prostitute in Jericho, hid the two Israelites in her home.  She even helped them escape.   Having heard all that God had done for the Israelites when they came out of Egypt,  she said, "The Lord your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below."  The Israelites promised that if she would tie a crimson cord in her window, she and her family would be spared when they took over Jericho.  And that's what happened.  When the walls of Jericho tumbled down and the Israelites took over the city, "Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, Joshua spared.  Her family has lived in Israel ever since.  For she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho."

Joshua 2:1-21 and 6:22-25

Potential ornaments for the Jesse Tree: a red ribbon, yarn, or string

Monday, December 16, 2013

Jesse Tree: the Story of God's Promise and Aaron's Blessing

After the Israelites had escaped from slavery and were safe from their pursuers, the Lord chose Aaron and his descendents to serve as priests.  God said to Aaron, "I will dwell among the Israelites, and I will be their God.  And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them; I am the Lord their God."  After Aaron had made offerings to God, he "lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them...and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people."

Exodus 29 and Leviticus 9:22-24

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a hand (for blessing)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Jesse Tree: the Story of Moses Parting the Sea and Miriam's Song

When the fleeing Israelites reached the Red Sea, "Moses stretched out his hand over the sea.  The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land....  The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left."  In the morning, the sea closed over the pursuing army and drowned them, and the Israelites were safe on the other side.  "Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.  And Miriam sang to them:
˜Sing to the Lord for the glorious triuimph;
            horse and rider have been thrown into the sea."

Exodus 14:21-15:21

Potential ornaments for the Jesse Tree: a tambourine or other musical instrument (we have a banjo), a dancer

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Jesse Tree: the Story of the Exodus from Egypt

God had compassion on the suffering of the enslaved Israelites, and so God chose Moses to free the people from slavery.  Terrible plagues ravaged Egypt, and in the midst of them, Moses led the Israelites out of the land of bondage.  "The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night."  Then, even though Pharoah had said that the Israelites could go, he changed his mind and sent an army to capture them and bring them back to slavery.  The pillar of cloud and fire moved behind the Israelites to protect them from the pursuing army.

Exodus 3-14

Potential ornament for the Jesse Tree: a pillar of fire or a cloud

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Jesse Tree: a Story of Civil Disobedience by Two Midwives

Because of a severe famine, all of Joseph's eleven brothers and their families and even his old father Jacob ended up moving to Egypt where there was still food, so the family was finally reunited.  As years went by, "the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them."  After many, many years, a new king of Egypt decided that there were too many of these outsiders and he made the Israelites work as slaves.   He even told Puah and Shiphrah, two Hebrew midwives, to kill all the boy babies born to the Israelites.  "But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live."  They followed their conscience, not the command of the king. And so the number of Israelites in Egypt continued to grow.

Exodus 1:1-21

Potential ornaments for the Jesse Tree: a baby, two women, a raised fist

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Jesse Tree: the Story of Joseph's Coat and His Brothers' Jealousy

Jacob, who dreamed of the ladder, had twelve sons of his own; he loved his son Joseph in a special way "because he was the son of his old age," so he had a long coat made for him.  Joseph's brothers were jealous of the fancy coat their father had given Joseph, and when Joseph began telling them about his own dreams of glory, "They hated him even more because of his dreams and his words."  One day while all the brothers were tending their father's flock of sheep, the older brothers turned against Joseph and sold him to a caravan headed to Egypt, dipped his robe in goat's blood, and told their father that Joseph had been killed by wild animals.  Actually, although at first Joseph had a very hard life in Egypt, later "he became a successful man." Long years later, the story had a happy ending when all his brothers came to Egypt. Jacob even got to see Joseph again and to know that his son was still alive!

Genesis 37:1-36

Potential ornament to make for the Jesse Tree: a many-colored robe or coat

Monday, December 9, 2013

Jesse Tree: the Story of Jacob's Ladder

When Isaac grew up, he married Rebekah; they had twin sons named Esau and Jacob.  One night after the twins had grown up, Jacob went on a journey to visit his uncle Laban. The first night on the road, he slept outside under the stars, using a stone for a pillow.  As he slept, "he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it."  After this dream of the angels going up and down the ladder between heaven and earth, God spoke to Jacob and blessed him: "Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go."  In the morning Jacob used the stone that had been his pillow to mark the place as holy ground.

Genesis 28:10-22

Potential ornament to make for the Jesse Tree: a ladder

For those who might like to read more about angels, here are two links:

from Season of Angels website: http://www.seasonofangels.com/background.html

from Friends of Silence newsletter: http://friendsofsilence.net/email/december-2013

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Jesse Tree: 2nd Sunday in Advent review and invitation

Review: So now we're a week into Advent, and for those of you that may have missed the Nov. 25 background on using the Jesse Tree as an Advent activity at home, here is a portion of that posting:

When my kids were little, the Jesse Tree ritual helped counter the cultural pressure to see Christmas as nothing but "What do I get? What will be under the tree for me?"

By making "ornaments" to symbolize stories from Scripture and then hanging them on a small branch we cut ahead of time, we found the Jesse Tree to be a family ritual which gave the gift of Scripture to our children and allowed the old stories to etch themselves into their memories. It's a fine companion to the traditional Advent Calendar, an additional buffer to the commercial kidnapping of Christmas.

Incorporating the Jesse Tree into Advent simply involves retelling a story from Scripture each day (or on those days you can make time) during Advent, and then making some sort of symbol to represent that story (an "ornament") to hang on the branch. Our "ornaments" were construction paper, or felt and glue, or found objects -- we were not an artistic bunch. Some families create much more elaborate (or at least attractive) Jesse Tree ornaments...  

Next, the Invitation: send photos of your Jesse Tree or of some of your homemade ornaments! Mine are pretty primitive (as you can see from our "world," our bundle of sticks, and Jacob's ladder); I love them, but it would be fun to see what others of you are doing.