Every year since I was four ... we start on Day 1 and we tell the story. And my mom created this rhythm in our home all those years ago. Now life just seems to ebb and flow with the seasons ... with me always on the lookout for what is coming around the bend. Again.
And I love this circular living, the knowing and the waiting. My girls wait with anticipation the way I waited when I was small, each morning waking up and looking to the day. What day is it? They want to know and I am thrilled. They are putting down new roots, grafting into mine and hers ... grafting into His.
I woke every morning of December to put that figure on the tree and my mind doesn't know advent without them. Without her all wrapped up in them ... telling me of Him. She taught me in quiet, simple ways how the small tales are really part of one large story. How the old weaves right into the new. How every word pointed to His coming. How scripture told He would come from the root of Jesse ...
All along, through those rhythmic years of Decembers, my mother was making Christmas more than just a day. She was making Christmas a story-- a life in the making-- with real heroes and reminders of our place in it all ... us, all unknowing and hero-needy.
So at Christmas time each year we begin at the beginning. We tell of Adam, Eve, Noah and the flood, Abraham and the promise, Samuel, David and a royal bloodline. We tell the story one piece at a time, starting with a miniature earth and that ol' apple.
We start with a serpent and we end with a Savior. We start with a promise and we end with a Person.
The Word making good on his word.
My mother is 66 now and her Jesse Tree, all its felt figures, shows signs of wear. And she said I could have it someday, when she is gone. But I don't like to think about that and I prefer it hanging on her wall in her home. Still, it has taken me years to create may own version and the felt characters just don't feel the same in my fingertips. I want the smell and the taste and the touch to stay the same and I have to remember that we are paving new ways. Same roots ... new rhythms.
I am thankful for roots.
And somewhere along the way, during these last years, I have grown to love this woman too. As a young mother and no longer a little girl, I need reminding again and again of this rhythmic living. Always coming back to Christ, day after day, season after season ... the story always pointing to Him. She helps me to see.
And lately I find that I need this story now more than ever and I wonder if my mother, way back then, didn't need it too. I wonder if that Jesse Tree was more for her than for us ... creating her own space of grace and awe ... a space of remembering while a young family and four children swirled at her feet and swept through her kitchen.
Looking back I know it was all by grace ... me picking up on the rhythms she created. Me breathing in the story that was so much bigger and substantial than I ever could have known. And how we invited Him into our living room, our life, all because she knew our need ...
Because more than a Jesse Tree, did she know that we just needed Jesus? And I live now by these rhythms ... created by her, rooted in Him. This God among us.
It is December 14th and we are following the lead of my mother and we are following the lead of Ann (dearest Ann who quietly follows the lead of Christ). We are looking toward Him. And for the last few years now, we have joined up her words with my felt roots and I smile big each advent season, like I did when I was small ... the knowing that this is a good fit for us.
This new weaving into the old and the knowing that there is room for these roots to sprawl and plunge deeper still. Always pointing behind and ahead too ... each day a reminder of the One who came and the one who is coming still.