Preparing for Christmas

Advent is a time of waiting, a time of anticipation and preparation for the coming of Jesus. There are many ways to get ready for Christmas. One way is through a Jesse Tree.

A Jesse Tree is a tree branch decorated with symbols representing the stories of people in Jesus’ family tree. In Isaiah we read, “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots”. Jesse was the father of David, Israel’s greatest king. And it was from David’s lineage that Jesus came. That’s where the idea of using a Jesse Tree to celebrate Advent came from. The symbols on the Jesse Tree trace the family tree of Jesus by reflecting the generations from Abraham all the way through to Jesus.

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Another way to prepare for Christmas is through an Advent wreath. It is made in the form of a ring, which is a symbol of eternity, since it has no beginning and no end. Each week, we light one more candle. Three of the candles are purple to symbolise both penitence and royalty – Christ as the Prince of Peace. Rose is the colour for the third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday from the Latin word ‘rejoice’. The white candle in the centre symbolises Christmas.

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The first candle can represent the Old Testament prophets, who prepared the way of the Lord, by emphasising the need to prove our love of God with action for justice.

The second candle can be a symbol of John the Baptist, who prepared for the new beginning in Christ, by living a life of great simplicity. We also can simplify our lives this Advent, getting rid of excess. Christmas is a celebration of the greatest event in the history of the world. The birth of Jesus offered a new beginning to the world, a new way of life.

The third candle can be a reminder of Mary, who made a perfect response of faith to God’s challenge. The Annunciation was really a question to Mary: “Will you bring Christ into the world?” Mary said yes. Today each of us is called to follow Christ, and we are challenged by the same question Mary was asked: “Will you bring Christ into the world?”

The fourth candle can represent ourselves and our families. Our prayer is that God will inspire us anew this Christmas, that Christ will be born again in our hearts, and that his light will shine out to others through us. We promise to make a fresh start in our faith.

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Today’s Mass Readings
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Our task is to seek and find Christ in our world as it is, and not as it might be. The fact that the world is other than it might be does not alter the truth that Christ is present in it and that his plan has been neither frustrated nor changed: indeed, all will be done according to his will.
Our Advent is a celebration of this hope. What is uncertain is not the “coming” of Christ but our own reception of him, our own response to him, our readiness and capacity to “go forth to meet him”. We must be willing to see him and acclaim him, even at the very moment when our whole life’s work and all its meaning seem to collapse.
(Thomas Merton)
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