In the catechism class, the teachers are walking the children through the Story of Jesus’s Family, using illustrations of the stories of Jesus’s ancestors that give attention to the shadows that point toward the coming Messiah.
Do you realize that that is what makes retelling the account of the birth of Christ so thrilling, so edifying and worthwhile? We know the ending, but because we also know how far back in history the beginning was decreed, and we track the promises through the lives of the Old Covenant people and prophets and see how each shadow reveals more and more about the mystery of the coming Messiah, we can still imagine the suspense and the anticipation of the Advent of the Savior of the World. The result: the Lord calls us to join with Him and the rest of the Body to reflect upon and savor the eternal work of God in bringing the Gift of the Ages to His people. And you’re right, it’s not just this season – we can do this all year ‘round!
Jesus Family Tree
The foundation of the lesson is found in Isaiah 11: 1-3:
A Shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord – and He will delight in the fear of the Lord.
The Jesus Family Tree mounted in the classroom is a four-branched, 2-dimensional brown tree. As the redemptive HIStory is recounted, brightly colored and illustrated ornaments get hung on the branches, depicting episodes in the Old Testament where the Promise of a Savior is foretold. Wouldn’t it be a delight to share this anticipation and delight with your children during these next few weeks? Well, thanks to the Child Ministry International publishers, we can do that. A guide for parents to incorporate the readings and lessons at home includes cut-outs of the very same ornaments. All that’s needed to complete the activity is a tree, which could be formed from construction paper or brown paper bags, drawn on a whiteboard, or even fashioned from a large branch from nature!
Read together the passages from the Bible on the Advent Readings Schedule (on the Sunday School page) and discuss what the promises or shadows are that are represented by the symbol, giving special attention to any words that reference our Lord. Begin with the symbol of the scroll with the words from Isaiah, placing that ornament at the base of the “tree”.
Tracking the days leading up to Christmas is an activity many families enjoy doing, sometimes using Advent calendars or Jesse Trees, and if this a tradition your family already enjoys and grows from, then you know what a blessing it can be to take some time each day to center on Christ, and I hope it enriches your Advent season this year with the wonder and majesty of God’s incarnation and the satisfaction of the Hope of the Ages.
If you haven’t tried to incorporate this activity into your routine until now (believe me, I understand the busy schedules, the problem with consistency), I urge you to consider it. What a perfect opportunity to fulfill the Lord’s call to parents to talk of the truths and commandments to your children “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
Child Ministry International's Advent Reading Schedule (at use in the 3RG catechism class)
Other Advent activities you may be interested in: Jesse Tree (website link not an endorsement, it simply contains a good list of links to printables and instructions) and The Messiah Vine (recommended by Jill Nelson at Children Desiring God)