The Jesse Tree – A family guide through the season of Advent.

My dear friend Lynne has just finished her new book. It looks amazing for those of us with young families. I ordered my copy today! You can order your copy HERE and please come and like the Jesse Tree FACEBOOK PAGE

The Jesse Tree-1

By Lynne Drozdik Wardach

When I undertook the task of compiling material for this book, in no way did I ever envision it as a finished product. As any young Catholic mother, I strove constantly to weave the threads of the faith into the fabric of our daily lives wherever I was able. With the shopping, and baking, and wrapping, and visiting and every other secular activity that seemed to occupy the minds of my little disciples at Christmas time, it occurred to me that the preparation for the season seemed the perfect time to do just that, but how?

I began my search and fell upon the concept of the Jesse Tree. This was quite a novel idea to me at the time and reading the Old Testament scripture stories was something my children enjoyed already. As the advent season approached that year, I made a small list of their favorite stories, pulled out my parents’ old Christmas tree and set it up in the family room. We began with the creation of the world that year and my two oldest made little earths from some modeling clay, just as God would have done when He sculpted our world. We spoke of how God must have felt that day as He did so. “Do you think He ever mushed the world back up into a ball like that and started over, like you just did?” “Don’t forget those polar ice caps! Where do polar bears live?” My son made all the planets and the stars too as he loved to look at them at night. So much to learn! We ran a loop of string through each one, and tagged it with the child’s name and the year it was made.

l1

“Don’t forget those polar ice caps!”

These precious creations are beloved still and grace our tree every year when these same little disciples, now adults themselves mind you, rush to the box to search for them. We talk now about those little lessons that went with each ornament, more deeply and practically now, of course. They remember all the little talking points I used when I was their primary teacher of life, illustrating God’s point for my little disciples. It was my goal at the time that they not forget any of them, so I wrote them all down at night after they went to sleep. This, dear parents…THIS is why I worked so hard compile it all and share this advent adventure with you.

At that time, my own mother looked me in the eye and tearfully and somewhat prophetically told me that THIS was the happiest time of my life. This was the busiest, craziest, messiest, most emotional time with five small children all clamoring for my attention, but it was wonderful! She was so very right. This activity was more to my family than just catechesis; it took those teaching points and attached precious memories that hopefully will live on in them when God entrusts them with their very own little disciples. Perhaps they will remember me too!

l2

Now, to speak practically, it took me over fifteen years to write the material in this book. You may notice that there are 40 lessons. We are a Byzantine rite Catholic family, so for us the pre-Christmas preparatory season begins on November 15. It is called Philipovka, or St. Philip’s fast, because it begins the day after the feast of St. Philip and lasts for 40 days until Christmas. We realize this is much more material than the average Christian family might use in their own home as they celebrate Advent, but bear in mind that you need not use it every day to be practical. Some families may choose to do the even days one year, and the odd days the next. Some may do one per week, skipping around the lessons as they like and do more over the next several years.

In my own family, we did this, and found that as the children grew, it became more practical to review the story and the lesson and then let them search for past ornaments, now keepsakes, that they had made to adorn the tree. It may also be the case that the tree itself may be difficult to display due to space and size. A friend of mine has solved this dilemma by copying and laminating the icon that accompanies each lesson, and crafting that into a flat ornament to tack to a wall in her kitchen, in the form of a tree. Each family will come to use this book as it suits them best.

l

This book is intended to help each family develop a greater understanding of salvation history over the span of many years. The ways in which each family will use this material will also evolve over time and grow and change as the little disciples in the family grow and change. Use this in whatever way works best for you! I hope that it becomes a beloved tradition in your domestic church and that it brings your family as much joy as it has brought to mine.

God bless! Lynne x

Lynne Drozdik Wardach

Lynne Drozdik Wardach

The themes each day include reading the account from scripture as a family, a lesson for the children and making a Commemorative Ornament.
November 15    Introduction to the Jesse Tree
November 16    The Creation and Fall of the Angels
November 17    The Creation of the Earth
November 18    The Creation of Adam and Eve
November 19    The First Sin
November 20    Cain and Abel
November 21    Noah and the Great Flood
November 22    The Tower of Babel
November 23    Abraham
November 24    The Three Visitors
November 25    The Offering of Isaac
November 26    Jacob
November 27    Joseph
November 28    Moses
November 29    The Passover and Exodus
November 30    The Parting of the Red Sea
December 1    The Ten Commandments
December 2    Joshua and the Fall of Jericho
December 3    Gideon
December 4    Ruth
December 5    Samuel
December 6    David and Goliath
December 7    David the Shepherd
December 8    Elijah
December 9    Esther
December 10    Isaiah
December 11    Jeremiah
December 12    Micah
December 13    Habbakuk
December 14    Nehemiah
December 15    The Three Brave Youths
December 16    Daniel in the Lion’s Den
December 17    Jonah and the Whale
December 18    The Annunciation to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel
December 19    Elizabeth and Zaccharias
December 20    The Visitation
December 21    John the Baptist
December 22    Joseph
December 23    The Magi
December 24    Jesus:  The Birth of the Messiah
December 25    Christ is Born!

You can order your copy HERE and please come and like the Jesse Tree FACEBOOK PAGE

Teach Kids about Advent using White Chocolate and Cornflakes!

So…. We’ve been busy! We have been making White Chocolate Advent Wreaths.

You will need…

White Chocolate

Cornflakes 

Mixed Chopped Nuts (optional)

Desiccated Coconut

Cherries

1 Birthday Candle

Plate or board

Cup

 

Q. What are real Advent wreaths made out of?

A. Evergreen leaves like Holly or Pine branches.

1

1. Start by melting the white chocolate. Then add the Cornflakes, mixed chopped nuts (optional) and a little of the coconut. When it is mixed together it should look like this…

2

Q. Why do we use evergreen branches?

A. To remind us of the Eternal Life we will have in heaven.

4

2. Get a board or a large plate and put a cup faced down in the centre. Spoon your mixture around the cup to create your round wreath shape.

Q. Why are Christmas wreaths circle shaped?

A. Because a circle has no beginning and no end – just like God has no beginning and no end.

6

3. Carefully remove the cup and sprinkle on some more coconut.

Q. How many weeks are there in Advent?

A. Four. 

8

 

4. Place 4 cherries on your wreath and one in the centre. Stick a birthday candle in the centre cherry.

Q. Why do we light candles during Advent and Christmas?

A. To remind us that Jesus is the ‘Light of the World’. 

9

 

5. Start feeling rather proud of yourself for creating such a beautiful edible Advent wreath!

10

 

6. Share that feeling with those around you! Then place your wreath into the fridge to set. 

11

 

7. Lick the bowl.

Q. Why do we have Advent?

A. To help us prepare for the coming of baby Jesus at Christmas.

For a more in-depth answer of Why do we have Advent? look here… http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/introduction-to-advent/

And now, while your baby does this…

baby sleeping

 

You can have one of these…

tea

 

And ponder why on earth that recent Vatican survey was written in such complicated language!

 

 

Happy 1st Birthday Faith in our Families!

fiof birthday

The Epiphany of our Lord – Year C

“… And there, ahead of them, went the star…”

Gospel: Luke 2: 1-12

1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ” 7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Gospel Summary

The wise men came from the east following a star. They were seeking a child who they understood to be King of the Jews. When Herod heard of this he was frightened and tried to trick the wise men into leading him to the child so he could kill Him. They continued to follow the star until it lead them to Jesus. They brought Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Relating the Gospel to our lives today.

Which character are you in the story?

Are you Herod? Angry, frightened and suspicious of Jesus. Attached to worldly power and wealth. Only interested in your own corner of the world.

Are you one of the wise men? Diligently and patiently searching for Jesus. Trustingly following a new star when they have no idea where it is leading you. Reading as much as you can to learn more about this new born king. Alive with hope and wonder, yet wise and humble enough to kneel at the foot of this tiny baby.

Or are you the star? Brightly shining with Gods glory! Radiating interest and wonder. Patiently and slowly leading people to Jesus. Lighting the way for them through their dark nights, and making your-self easy to find during the day. Going at their pace, not yours.

It is worth remembering that wise men still seek Jesus today you know…!

  • Who am I a Star to?
  • Who is my Star?
  • What gift can I give to Jesus?

Dear Jesus

Help me lead my family to you. Help me do this in my thoughts, words and actions.

The closer I get to you, the easier it is for me to lead others to you. Help me draw closer to you.

I love You Jesus, Amen.

Download the A4 newsletter version of this post, FREE for use in your school or parish: Epiphany – Year C.doc   Epiphany – Year C.pdf

Feast of the Holy Family prayers… (and a happy new year!)

Our whole parish read these beautiful family prayers at mass today – I thought you would enjoy them too! – Oh and by the way, let me be the first to wish you a happy, healthy and holy 2014!

For Married Couples…

Almighty God, You hold all things together by Your power. Bless our marriage union and our love for each other. Look kindly upon us and keep our lives unselfish. Teach us to bring our problems and plans before You, to offer You our joys and sorrows, and so make full use of the grace You promised us on our Wedding Day. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Parents…

Heavenly Father, You have given us our children and You entrust them to our care. Help us to be good parents knowing when to give and when to withhold; when to reprove and when to forbear. Make us gentle, yet firm, considerate and reliable. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Children…

Dear Jesus, You command that we should honour our mother and our father. Give them health of mind and body, and joy in their hearts. Bless their work and all they do. May we not take for granted the daily tasks they do for us, but help them whenever we can. Make our home happy in Your service. Amen.

Fouth Sunday of Advent – Year C

For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting…”

Gospel: Luke 1: 39-45

39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Gospel Summary

Mary went to visit Elizabeth. As soon as Mary greeted her, Elizabeth’s child leapt in her womb. She was filled with the Holy Spirit and recognized Mary as “…the mother of my Lord”.

Relating the Gospel to our lives today.

A few verses earlier in Luke’s Gospel we learn: “…24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion…” Elizabeth had waited her whole life to conceive a child. For her it was a disgrace to remain barren – so why did she keep herself hidden for five months? Perhaps she was afraid or even ashamed? Perhaps she just didn’t know how to react to this amazing gift God had given her? Perhaps she felt alone – like she no longer fitted in with the women her age anymore? Whatever the reason, it disappeared the second she was greeted by Mary: “…the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Isn’t this example of Mary and Elizabeth a perfect illustration of our New Evangelisation?! Elizabeth had been given a wonderful gift from God but for some reason was hiding it. But when she was visited by Mary – carrying Jesus inside of her – then Elizabeth became full of the Holy Spirit and hid her gift no longer. Notice Mary did nothing out of the ordinary – she was just there, with Jesus inside of her. But it was enough to spark Elizabeth’s faith into action. By her simple “Yes”, Mary was allowing God to use her life to fulfil His plan.

Through our Baptism and Confirmation, we have also become carriers of the Holy Spirit. And through reading the scriptures and especially by receiving the Eucharist, we too carry Jesus within us. This Christmas, ask Mary to help you say “Yes” to God so He may use your life to spark someone else’s faith into action. Hail Mary…

Dear Jesus

Thank you for your Mother Mary. Without her “Yes” you would never have been born. She trusted and allowed God to use her life completely. Help me have this simple faith and courage too, so that I may bring you to those around me. I love you Jesus, Amen. ps. Happy Birthday for Tuesday! xxx

Download the A4 newsletter version of this post, FREE for use in your school or parish: Fourth Sunday of Advent – Year C.doc  Fourth Sunday of Advent – Year C.pdf

Third Sunday of Advent – Year C

“Teacher, what should we do? …”

 

Gospel: Luke 3: 10-18

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” 15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Gospel Summary

The crowd asks John the Baptist for instruction regarding the coming of the Messiah. The crowd is filled with expectancy and urgency, and some even question whether John himself was the Messiah? John set the crowd straight by telling them that he was not worthy to untie the thong of His sandals.” He speaks of Gods justice, and proclaimed the Good News to all the people.

Relating the Gospel to our lives today.

Interestingly, John the Baptist speaks of moderation as preparation for the coming of the Messiah. This is certainly good advice for us today as we prepare for Christmas in our consumer society. The stresses of Christmas today are, for most people, more to do with financial strains than anything spiritual. The ‘fear of God’ which was a typical emotional response (at the time of John the Baptist) to the arrival of a great prophet or messiah, has been replaced in modern times with a more sentimental gentle-wonder at the birth of a baby. But if we focus too much on the sentimentality we can lose the deeper spiritual meaning as we prepare for Christmas. The birth of a baby does not seem as threatening as the arrival of an adult Messiah. When we think about the second coming of Jesus we may begin to feel, well, a little anxious! – Exactly the same feeling the crowds were experiencing as they spoke to John the Baptist. This week’s Gospel again teaches us that as we prepare spiritually to celebrate His first coming as a tiny baby, we are (in the same way) preparing for His second coming as an adult. Perhaps we too should be asking ourselves the question “Teacher, what should we do?” as we prepare for Christmas this year. In this Year of Faith, we are challenged to assess the depth of our relationship with Jesus, not just as a tiny baby, but as a relationship between adults. Do we relate to Jesus in all the complexities and frustrations we usually encounter in a relationship between adults? Or have we been keeping our distance emotionally?

Frustration between adults is of course something that often happens at Christmas. But this year, rather than allowing family tension to stress us out, we can use it as an opportunity to try to encounter Jesus in that annoying relative we dread seeing every year! Then we will begin to understand that true generosity has little to do with financial strain, and more to do with our hearts.

  • Do I tell Jesus when I am frustrated and angry with Him?
  • Am I keeping Jesus at arm’s length emotionally?
  • Jesus knows me better than I know myself!

Dear Jesus

Help me to have the courage to be honest with you. Sometimes I do feel frustrated and angry with you but I am unsure if this feeling is appropriate? But how will we ever work through problems together unless I am honest with you?! Help me Jesus, to trust you with everything that is in my heart. I love you Jesus, Amen.

Download the A4 newsletter version of this post, FREE for use in your school or parish: Third Sunday of Advent – Year C.doc   Third Sunday of Advent – Year C.pdf

Second Sunday of Advent – Year C

Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight …”

Gospel: Luke 3:1-6

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ “

Gospel Summary

Luke was very thorough in placing the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry within a historical context. He set John’s ministry in time by telling who the leaders were in the region. John’s role was to prepare the way for Jesus and to proclaim a theme of repentance for those who would follow Jesus. Like a Roman army of engineers filling in gullies and levelling mountains to make roads, John’s job was to make the pathway smooth for those about to encounter Jesus.

Relating the Gospel to our lives today.

John the Baptist invites us to repent! But it is true today that many western Catholics never go to confession. Why is this? Many would argue that within our secular western culture there is a widespread loss of the sense of sin. We’ve ended up in a moral ‘grey area’ where anything goes – as long as we can justify it to ourselves. Perhaps the saddest thing about this is that we have forgotten that sin is something that harms us.

Confession heals us. It is the first step on the road as we turn back to God. People often talk about having ‘baggage’, but with confession there is no need to carry this ‘baggage’ any more. Healing takes time, and may be painful to begin with, but there is no need for us to do it on our own. Jesus has given us the priests to light our way, guide our steps, and even hold our hand if we need them to. A thirty-something American woman described her experience of confession like this:

“I was scared, shaking in fact. The priest noticed I was nervous but he was so friendly and re-assuring. I couldn’t remember what to say but that didn’t matter – he took me through it step by step. I told him about the abortion I had almost 15 years ago. Finally – I was letting it go. We talked a while and then he absolved me. I am so grateful, and now I am beginning to find peace in my life again.”

  • Sin harms us. Confession heals us.
  • Is there some ‘baggage’ I would like to let go of this Advent?
  • What time does confession take place in my Parish?

Dear Jesus…

Help me find the courage to come to confession this Advent. I want to but I am scared. Help me remember that confession is a healing experience. Help me remember that there is no sin you cannot forgive. Your love and mercy never end Lord.

Thank You, I love You Jesus. Amen.

 Download the A4 newsletter version of this post, FREE for use in your school or parish: Second Sunday of Advent – Year C.pdf   Second Sunday of Advent – Year C