Happy New Year!

Today, we are celebrating New Years Day!  This is the first day of Advent and therefore, the first day of a new liturgical year.  The purpose of the liturgical year is not simply a Church calendar that marks the passage of time.  Rather,  it is to help us celebrate and better understand the mystery of Jesus Christ.  Each season of the liturgical year should be an opportunity to grow in faith and love for our Lord and Advent is the season where we begin this journey.

Advent (which means "coming") has a three-fold purpose where each part is focused on preparing for the coming of Christ.  The first and most obvious part is the preparation to celebrate the birth of Christ.  We celebrate the anniversary of the Nativity on December 25.  This was the first coming of Christ and something we remember yearly.  Additionally, the present coming of Christ is one we can celebrate each day in the Eucharist.  Christ makes Himself present to us through His body and blood at Mass.  We should constantly be preparing our minds and hearts for His coming in this form, as well as receiving it as frequently as possible.  Finally, the "advent" which is maybe the easiest to forget about on a daily basis, is the future/final coming of Christ.  Most importantly, Advent is a chance for us to prepare for this coming, one that we do not know the time of.  We should be using this season as a chance to re-focus and align our priorities with our ultimate goal - joining Christ in heaven as saints.

We do several things during this season to try to "shake up" our usual routines.  Our efforts are made to help ourselves, and our children, better prepare for Christ to come into our lives - in remembrance of the Nativity, daily through the Eucharist, and in His future coming.  Our first effort is made in how we decorate our home.  We alter the interior of our home more during this season than any other because we think this visual change invokes feelings of change inside us.  We take down most of our regular decorations and replace them with ones that celebrate the purpose of this season.  We add purple throughout our home (on our family altar, as a table runner, in the candles we use, etc.) since this is the color that symbolizes a time of preparation.  We have an advent wreath which we light nightly as we eat dinner and pray.  We will add a Christmas tree, nativity, and other decorations on the Feast of St. Nicholas.

Our Advent table runner with our Advent wreath, complete with candles made at Magnificat Moms.

We also are adding a Jesse Tree to our daily Advent preparations.  The purpose of the Jesse Tree is to connect the decorations of a Christmas tree to the historic events which prepare us for Christ's birth.  This tree is named from Scripture (Isaiah 11:1) where it says that "A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots."  Jesse was the father of King David which is the line from which Joseph, Mary, and most importantly Jesus, was born.   Each day we read a story from the Bible that corresponds to an ornament we hang on our tree.  These stories and ornaments tell the story of our salvation history, leading to the birth (and ultimate death) of our Lord and Savior.

This year I got together with some friends to do an ornament exchange.  We each mass produced 2 ornaments for the Jesse Tree.  We shared them with one another at a party and each ended up with 25 unique and beautiful ornaments for our families to use during this time of preparation for our Lord.

Here is our "tree" not yet adorned by ornaments.  We'll add the first one (a branch as a symbol of Jesse from the above reading) later tonight when we pray after dinner.

The tree could easily be re-produced (and probably improved) 
but that cheesy boy is definitely one of a kind.  

Here are all the ornaments.  I have some very talented friends and my favorite part is that so many of them are completely different than how I would've done them.   They are all unique and beautiful; I am grateful to have them to celebrate with my family for many years to come.  

John Paul cannot wait for these all to be on the tree.  
He loves sorting them and looking through each one - over and over.

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