Jesse Tree 7. Isaac - Saturday, 4 December 2021

READ: Genesis 21-22

After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” (Genesis 22:1-2)

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now, I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So, Abraham called that place “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22:9-14)

REFLECT

God’s plan to show his love to everyone needed Abraham to be the real deal. Abraham had to be serious about trusting God. To make sure, God decided to test Abraham.

God thought of the one thing that would be hardest for Abraham to give up: Isaac, his son. Abraham loved Isaac with his whole heart, and now God was asking Abraham to give Isaac as a present to God. It meant that Abraham would have to kill Isaac. It made Abraham really sad, but he believed that God would keep the promise to give Abraham lots of grandchildren. He trusted God.

When God saw that Abraham trusted him completely, God provided another way. He showed Abraham a sheep nearby, which Abraham could give to God as a present instead.

Many years later, God himself gave up his son. This time, the son wasn’t Isaac; it was Jesus. And this time, Jesus was the sheep, too. He’s the Lamb of God, and God gave him as a present for the whole world.

TALK

- How did Isaac feel when he was going up the mountain with his dad?

- How much do you think God loves you?

- How much do you love God?

PRAY

Jesus, thank you for being a present to me. Help me trust you even when things are very hard. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree.

Find something of yours to give away that could bless someone else.

Materials adapted from: https://www.faithward.org/jesse-tree/, http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-jesse-tree-printable-pictures.html

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Advent 2. Getting Ready - Sunday, 5 December 2021

READ Malachi 3:1-4 & Luke 3:1-6

This week, the readings and addition to the Nativity display acknowledge the process of getting ready. We think about things in our lives that need to be ‘made smoother’ – but also, things in the world, the valleys and rocky paths, the injustices, and difficult things that we can work to straighten out to make the paths for the Kingdom. Today, there is a path added to our display and we will add sheep and shepherds who journeyed towards the newborn baby.

REFLECT, TALK & DO

It's week 2 of Advent! Last week we talked about anticipating… what we are looking forward to and built a tree with our prayers of hope and anticipation. This week, we’ll talk about how Advent is about getting ready, and smoothing the way for ourselves and others to experience peace. The Bible is full of bits of looking forwards – and lots of bits about getting ready for what was coming.

In Luke chapter 3, we read the story about John the Baptist, who was Jesus’ prophet cousin. He was preparing the way for Jesus. What he said to the people, was like preparing a road towards Jesus. And today we will add a path to the tree, with some signs to lead the way. Read John 3:1-6 from the road signs.

- What do you think it means to “prepare the way for the Lord” and “make straight paths for him”?

In the Christmas story, we think a lot about the people who came to meet Jesus. But it is interesting to think about this verse, and how God is talking about making paths straight and mountains flattened as a highway for God to be known on – a highway for God so that everyone can see God’s salvation. This passage might be used as an encouragement to do some landscape gardening! To encourage us to look at the way that we come towards God, and the way that we encourage others to try to come towards God. Spend time reflecting on:

- What are some ways that the paths can be made straight and the rough roads, smoothed, so that God can be seen more clearly?

- What things in your life are barriers to you experiencing God’s Love and Peace?

- What are some things that you or others do that form barriers to people experiencing God’s love and Peace? In church? At home? At work or school? Have a think – it might be something in your life you need to straighten out, maybe an expectation that you’ve placed on someone else, maybe the ways that we expect people to behave or think in church or at home, It might be conflict with people you care about, think about tricky things that could be smoother…

During worship today, you are invited to add shepherds, and sheep to the path and the tree with your written and coloured prayers that God would make the paths straighter, and that his salvation will be seen.

PRAY

God of highways in the wilderness, help us to find ways to make the paths straight and the rough places smooth. Help us to identify and prepare ways for you to be seen and known in the world. Amen

Watery Advent 1. PEACE

Usually during Advent, we do an advent candle wreath, however this year we are doing a water wreath! Especially in the hot Australian Summer water is something that we anticipate, that we hope for. A cup of cool cup of water on a hot summer’s day, rain for our farmers and lawns, water to swim in, water for baptism! Water is a powerful symbol.

So each week, just like we would with a candle wreath, we’re going to fill a new cup instead of lighting a new candle as we reflect on Hope, Love, Peace, and Joy. Each week we will be adding more to the Jesse tree and to remind us of life growing out of the stump.

1: As we pour the water for our Advent wreath, we remember our deep thirst for God's peace.

All: We long for your peace, O God. [Pour water into the second glass.]

2: The peace of a long soak in a hot tub after a hard day’s work.

All: We long for your peace, O God.

1: The peace of steam rising around a home saved by the sweat and sacrifice of a community of firefighters and their supporters.

All: We long for your peace, O God.

2: Peace as deep and mysterious and teeming with life as the vast oceans.

All: We long for your peace, O God.

1: I invite you to name aloud people and places which are in particular need of God’s peace at this time e.g.: ► Neighbours who disagree; ► victims of crime; ► facing medical procedures; ► living with grief; ► In war-torn places; ► families involved with Courts

1 & 2: Advent God, we worship you with peace.

Materials adapted from: https://intergen.org.au/product/advent-series-something-is-coming/ & https://sa.uca.org.au/documents/intergen-docs/resources/Engage-Together-Advent-2020.pdf

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Jesse Tree 6. Abraham & Sarah - Friday, 3 December 2021

READ: Genesis 15-17

God brought Abraham outside and said, “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:5)

You will not be called Abram anymore. Your name will be Abraham because I have made you a father of many nations. I will greatly increase the number of your children after you. Nations and kings will come from you. I will make my covenant with you last forever. It will be between me and you and your family after you for all time to come. I will be your God. And I will be the God of all your family after you. (Genesis 17:5-7)

God also said to Abraham, “Do not continue to call your wife by the name Sarai. Her name will be Sarah. I will give her my blessing. You can be sure that I will give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations. Kings of nations will come from her.” (Genesis 17:15-16)

REFLECT

If there’s a clear night this week, go outside with your family before you go to bed. Find a spot where you can see the sky and look up. Hopefully, the sky is dark enough that you’re able to see the tiny pinpricks of stars, way off in the distance. The longer you look, the more stars you’ll be able to see.

This is how God showed Abraham how big his family would be. God promised that Abraham would have one son and so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren that he wouldn’t be able to count them, even if he tried. He’d changed their names and promised that Kings of nations would come from them.

Did you realize that you are part of Abraham’s family? When God showed Abraham all those stars, he was including you, too! Because of Jesus Christ, we are adopted into that same family—the family of Abraham and the family of God. The people in the stories you’re reading this Advent are your great-great-great grandmas and grandpas!

TALK

- Do you think Abraham tried to count all the stars he could see?

- What does it feel like to be part of God’s family?

PRAY

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, thank you for making me part of your family. I’m thankful that I get to be in the same family as Jesus. Thank you for inviting me into the covenant promise. Help me reflect the family name well. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree.

Go outside and count the stars and thank God for each of your ancestors, by name if you can.

Materials adapted from: https://www.faithward.org/jesse-tree/, http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-jesse-tree-printable-pictures.html

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Jesse Tree 5. Abram - Thursday, 2 December 2021

READ: Genesis 12

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

REFLECT

Moving isn’t most people’s idea of a good time. Packing feels overwhelming, loading and unloading the truck are exhausting, and settling in seems never ending. (Who doesn’t have one box still unopened in the basement?) Then there’s the way moving often takes us far away from the places we know and the people we love.

But God doesn’t let those challenges stop him from calling us to a new home. Abraham and Sarah had to pack up their tents, load up their camels, and slowly make their way from their home in Ur to a new land, called Canaan. Abraham and Sarah could have decided to stay put, figuring that the energy of moving wasn’t worth it. They could have established themselves more deeply in Ur and remained close to their families.

If they had done that, though, God’s blessing wouldn’t have gone out to the world. Through Abraham, God promises to bless all the families of the earth. Abraham’s willingness to do something uncomfortable and unknown means that the grace of God goes out.

In Abraham’s journey, we can see the faint outlines of Jesus himself. The Son of God also left his home, where he dwelled with the Father. He also travelled to a distant land, the land of humanity. And through him, the grace of God went out. Jesus’ willingness to leave the comfort of the divine dwelling and enter into our world means that the blessing extends to us. From him, we have received grace upon grace.

TALK

- What does it feel like to go somewhere new?

- Why was Jesus willing to leave heaven to show God’s love to us?

PRAY

Jesus, thank you so much for coming to earth so we can be loved by God. Help me to step away from familiar spaces into new ones, where you can spread your grace through me. Please help me do hard things sometimes so other people can know your love, too? Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree.

Do something for someone else that is hard for you to do.

Materials adapted from: https://www.faithward.org/jesse-tree/, http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-jesse-tree-printable-pictures.html

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Jesse Tree 4. Noah - Wednesday, 1 December 2021

READ Genesis 6-9

The flood continued forty days on the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters swelled and increased greatly on the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. The waters swelled so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; the waters swelled above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, domestic animals, wild animals, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all human beings; everything on dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. (Genesis 7:17-22)

REFLECT

The wickedness is too much to bear. Cruelty and violence are overwhelming. Everything is corrupt to the core: “every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

Fed up, God demolishes it. He drowns it in rain. Water, murky water, swallows up the whole of God’s creation. What was once a lush landscape had been marred by the evil of people, so God buried the whole thing in water. Only Noah and his family and a sampling of animals survive. And even they are powerless, reliant on God’s mercy to stop the rain and begin again. The lonely ark drifts on the vast expanse of water.

Until the rains stop, and the deep holds back its fountains. Still the ark drifts. The waters subside. But still the ark drifts. A bird sent out returns, finding no place—not a single twig—to alight on for even a moment. The waters recede further, though not enough to see more than the tops of mountains. No grassy plains, no flower-strewn meadows, no tree-lined valleys. Just rocky peaks. Noah sends out another bird. He doesn’t hold his breath. It may very well return bearing no sign of life. But wait—what’s that in its beak? An olive leaf, smooth, fragrant, redolent with life. Hope is born. The very same breath that he breathed into Adam, God took away from everyone in the flood. God wanted to start fresh. And he did—God has given us a new kind of breath, Holy Spirit breath.

In a way, God has breathed into us just like he breathed into Adam. We live because we have the Holy Spirit, the breath of life, in us.

TALK

- How does it feel to take a deep breath of fresh air?

- What does Holy Spirit breath feel like inside you?

- What promise did God make to Noah? And to you?

PRAY

God, you give the breath of life. Please fill us with your Holy Spirit so that we can live in a way that shows our love for you and our love for other people? Thanks for promising not to destroy all flesh again. Instead, you’ve made another way. In Jesus, we have the hope of new life. Come soon, Lord. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree.

Draw a rainbow and give it to someone to bless them.

Materials adapted from: https://www.faithward.org/jesse-tree/, http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-jesse-tree-printable-pictures.html

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Jesse Tree 3. Adam & Eve - Tuesday, 30 November 2021

READ Genesis 3

So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. (Genesis 3:6-7)

Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him away from the garden of Eden, to work the ground from which he had been taken. (Genesis 3:22-23)

REFLECT

Sunshine warms the garden, and big trees make cool, shady spots in just the right places. Flowers bloom wildly. Birds sing. Bunnies scamper. This garden, with a tree right in the middle, is the place where God lives with the people he created.

But when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, God knew he couldn’t trust them to live in the garden anymore. He sent them away. Since then, people haven’t been able to live as close to God as Adam and Eve did.

The Good News is that God has been working hard so that we can live with him again. In the Bible, we get a sneak preview of the end of the story. God is building a city—with a tree right in the middle—where we will live with him again!

And there’s another tree, that God uses. That one that got chopped down and put together in the shape of a cross. When Jesus died on that tree, he closed the distance between us and God. Jesus made it so that we could return to joyful, peaceful life with God.

TALK

- What things do you do that make you feel far from God?

- Have you ever done something you felt sorry about?

- What do you look forward to about living near to God?

PRAY

Loving God, we're sorry for doing things that put a gap between us and you. Along with Adam and Eve, I’m the one who eats the fruit and does things I shouldn’t—but I’m not the one who is punished. Jesus, you took on the consequences of sin, willingly being exiled from the presence of God the Father so that we could be reunited with him. Thank you for closing that gap when you died. We're excited to live with you in the city with a tree! Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree.

Say sorry to someone that you have done something wrong to in the past.

Materials adapted from: https://www.faithward.org/jesse-tree/, http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-jesse-tree-printable-pictures.html

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Jesse Tree 2. Creation - Monday, 29 November 2021

READ Genesis 1

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

REFLECT

In the story of the creation of the first two humans, the cast of characters is actually more extensive than it appears at first glance. Of course, there are the two humans and God the creator. There’s also the Spirit, hovering over the scene. And there’s the second person of the Trinity, the Word who was with God in the beginning, through whom all things were created (John 1). That person, Jesus Christ, may not be present in his human flesh quite yet, but he’s certainly part of this scene.

As God squats in the dust, gathering it into the form of a man, he has another human in mind—Jesus Christ. Though Jesus has yet to be born into the world, when he is, he will define humanity for all time. He is first—alpha—and ultimate—omega (Revelation 1:8). So when God creates that man and that woman in Genesis, fashioning them after his image, he is really fashioning them after the image of Jesus Christ, who is the image of God (Colossians 1:15). If we humans bear God’s image, Christ is God’s image.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear that it’s our ability to reason, to create things, or to relate to other people: that it is the image of God in us. It might be that. Or it might simply be Jesus Christ, the perfect human, the one there from the beginning, the one who is always interceding for us (Romans 8:34). If we worry that the image of God has grown dim in us, we can be confident that through Christ, it’s shining brightly.

It’s hard to know exactly what God looks and sounds like—except that we know what Jesus is like. Jesus is God in the form of a human being. Jesus looks exactly like God. He is God! So if you’re wondering what about you resembles God, you can just think about Jesus. You might not have his hair colour, and your body might be built differently than his, but your heart can look just like Jesus’ heart.

TALK

- What is your favourite thing in nature?

- What things about you—your personality or your character—are like Jesus?

- Can you think of ways that God made you to look like him?

PRAY

Wow, God! We feel pretty special that you made us like you. Would you help us get to know Jesus so that we can look more and more like him? I’m thankful that through the Holy Spirit, I’m united to you. I pray that you would shape me to be more and more like you each day. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add some nature and the next picture to your Jesse Tree.

Bless someone by telling them that they are made in God’s image.

Materials adapted from: https://www.faithward.org/jesse-tree/, http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-jesse-tree-printable-pictures.html

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Advent 1. Anticipating - Sunday, 28 November 2021

READ Ephesians 6:10-17, Jeremiah 33:14-16 & Psalm 25:1-10

When we read these passages, the theme of ‘anticipating’ emerges a sense of prophetic – the signs in creation, a sense of looking forwards, towards the branch that is sprouting, towards a future of hope and salvation, towards the community of love that is created by the Kingdom of God. This first week of Advent is an opportunity to think about the anticipation of Advent – what does follow Jesus mean that we can hope for? This week, we are picking up on the imagery of the branch sprouting out of the line of David (in Isaiah, it is referred to as ‘the stump’) and using this as the foundation component of the Nativity display.

REFLECT, TALK & DO

It’s the first week of Advent! And is an opportunity for us to spend a whole month thinking about and anticipating Christmas! Anything that drags out Christmas is a good thing, right?

- What does anticipation mean?

- What things do you start looking forward to in the lead up Christmas? Gifts? Food? Family you don’t see very often? Special traditions?

Advent is an opportunity for us to really ramp up the anticipation! The Bible tells us that the lead up to Jesus’ birth was full of anticipation!

- Can you think of any reasons why?

The Bible is full of prophecy, and a lot of it pointed towards there being a big, important event, a moment where God would intervene and save the people of Judah from oppression. The people were really tired of living in other countries as captives, or living in their homes, under the rule of someone else. The people living in Judea were living and hoping and anticipating something great happening. And the closer it got, the more they saw the signs and the more they anticipated that something big was coming.

In Jeremiah, God tells the people that He will make good on his promises, and that a branch will grow out of something that everyone thought was dead – the stump of an old tree. It’s a metaphor – the nations around Judea didn’t see them as powerful or important like they had once upon a time… The great nation of Israel wasn’t really great anymore, it was small, and it was in the hands of the powerful Roman Empire. Over the next few weeks in worship, we are going to build an Advent and Jesse tree – each week we are going to add some things to it as we think about different parts of getting closer to Christmas.

This week, we are thinking about anticipation and hope. The Psalmist talks about trusting God for new paths and hopeful future things. And in Jeremiah, it talks about anticipating something new growing out of something old – a new branch growing out of the stump. This reading often gets included in Advent readings because we believe that it was pointing towards Jesus. So here is a stump, to start off our Advent tree that we will add to over the coming weeks. Take time to think about things you anticipate:

- What do you hope God will bring new life to?

- What do you hope to do or new things you want to learn?

- What faith things do you look forward to God nurturing and growing in you?

- What do you look forward to God disrupting in you? in others?

During worship today, you are invited to add to your own branches and leaves to the tree, while you think, write and pray for the things you anticipate God bringing new life to. You can use branches, leaves, pipe cleaners, florist wire, crepe paper or other things.

PRAY

Dear God, thank you for the Hope that we have in you. Please help us to hold on to that hope and remember it as we anticipate your coming at Christmas, and your second return one day. Amen

Watery Advent 1. HOPE

Usually during Advent, we do an advent candle wreath, however this year we are doing a water wreath! Especially in the hot Australian Summer water is something that we anticipate, that we hope for. A cup of cool cup of water on a hot summer’s day, rain for our farmers and lawns, water to swim in, water for baptism! Water is a powerful symbol.

So each week, just like we would with a candle wreath, we’re going to fill a new cup instead of lighting a new candle as we reflect on Hope, Love, Peace, and Joy. Each week we will be adding more to the Jesse tree and to remind us of life growing out of the stump.

1: As we pour the water for our Advent wreath, we remember our deep thirst for God’s hope.

All: We long for your hope, O God. [Pour water into the first glass.]

2: Hope which revives us like that first icy cold drink of water gulped down from the fridge when you’ve trudged home from school on a 36-degree day.

All: We long for your hope, O God.

1: Hope which transforms us, like drought-breaking rain on parched land.

All: We long for your hope, O God.

2: Hope which carries us forward in its mystery, as the endless waves which connect us to the rest of the world.

All: We long for your hope, O God.

1: I invite you to name aloud people and places which are in particular need of God’s hope at this time e.g.: ► People dealing with long-term illness; ► In war torn places; ► facing the loss of their homes; ► Long-term unemployed; ► battling addictions; ► Asylum seekers and refugees; ► Australia’s indigenous people; ► People facing famine; ► Friends and relatives of missing persons; ► Parents of children in hospital; ► People dealing with the effects of drought in Australia and other places.

1 & 2: Advent God, we worship you with hope.

All: We long for your hope, O God. Amen.

Materials adapted from: https://intergen.org.au/product/advent-series-something-is-coming/ & https://sa.uca.org.au/documents/intergen-docs/resources/Engage-Together-Advent-2020.pdf

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Jesse Tree 1. The Stump - Sunday 28 November 2021

READ Isaiah 11

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:1-2)

REFLECT

This is hope: that even when the forest has been decimated, every last living plant hacked to the ground, no birdsong in the trees—even then, when all seems lost, a shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse.

In today’s passage, we read about Israel, having endured slavery in Egypt and wilderness in the dessert, now in exile. The people of God are weary and battered, discouraged by their own sin and the wickedness of the world. They look around: No one lives honourably. Evil reigns. Orphans and widows are neglected. People are puffed up, and institutions corrupt. And God, in his righteous judgment, intends to put a stop to it by bringing it all to the ground.

He “will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the tallest trees will be cut down” (Isaiah 10:33). All that will be left is a barren landscape, the bald remains of a clear-cut forest. But— “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1).

Imagine wandering through that post-apocalyptic landscape, seeing nothing but grey for miles, and suddenly coming across that shoot! The first green. The first bit of supple growth, signalling water beneath and, someday, a tree.

Who is this shoot, whom the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon? Jesus. Jesus, descendant of Jesse. Jesus, descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus, the one promised centuries before his arrival. Jesus is the one we hope for this Advent.

TALK

- Have you ever seen a new shoot growing from an old tree?

- How does your heart feel when you see new plants growing in spring?

PRAY

God, I am amazed at your patience and your plan for redeeming all things. Thank you for giving us hope in Jesus, like new growth after a devastating bushfire. Please give me strength to keep hoping, faith to keep trusting and help me pay attention to you this Advent. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Make a Jesse tree for your home (see instructions above). Add some leaves and the first picture to it.

Bless someone by giving them some flowers or a plant.

Materials adapted from: https://www.faithward.org/jesse-tree/, http://flamecreativekids.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-jesse-tree-printable-pictures.html

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