Advent Toolkit 

By: Nancy Belmont, Director of Faith Formation

We’re talking Advent ALREADY? It’s not even Thanksgiving! I know what you’re thinking, “Nancy, you’re as bad as the Christmas displays in Wal-Mart! I haven’t even BEGUN baking pumpkin pies!”

Bear with me, ladies. You need a plan for Advent. How many times have you had the best intentions to make Advent a focused time of prayer and reflection for yourself and your family, but got bulldozed by the run-up to the holidays? I’m here to help you get ahead of all that. 

What follows are two simple suggestions — one for yourself or your CWOC group, and one for your family. Check out these studies, order WAAAAAAY in advance (but don’t inadvertently store them with your secret Christmas present stash!), and relish the extra, dedicated time with God during the season of joyful anticipation. 

For yourself or to share with your CWOC group

Journey Through Advent: A Daily Advent Devotional for the Catholic Military Woman

by Annaliese Harry (Author), Caitlyn Anderson (Illustrator)

Written by a military spouse for military-affiliated women, this devotional guides the reader through Advent with scripture, prayer, reflections, and ideas for service. It invites you to spend time with God each day of Advent, preparing your heart and soul to receive God’s precious Gift more completely this Christmas. 

I suggest ordering this book with a beautiful notebook so you can write down your own insights and prayers in response to the daily inspirational verses. I also invite you to share this resource with your chapel group. You can use it independently each day and come together as a group once a week to talk about the insights you gained. 

For your family

Mosaic Jesse Tree ornaments 

Sara Estabrook blogs at To Jesus Sincerely, she is the spouse of a West Point professor, and she is a talented artist.

The Jesse Tree is a devotion that explores the “family tree” of Jesus. Jesse was the father of King David, and they are Jesus’ ancestors through Joseph. We call it a “Jesse Tree” because of the verse in the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Oh come, now rod of Jesse’s stem.”

For this Jesse Tree activity, you’ll need Sara’s book and a tree on which to hang 25 ornaments. You can print out a picture of a tree and tape the ornaments to it. You can cut a branch from a real tree and leave it on your table. My Jesse Tree is made of metal, hangs on my wall, and has lots of branches. I found at TJ Maxx, but there are many good choices available on Amazon. 

Sara’s Jesse tree begins on December 1 and ends on Christmas Day. Each day, your family will read scripture, reflections, and prayers together from the booklet and learn about one of Jesus’ ancestors. Then, you hang the ornament corresponding with the day’s reading. On December 17, you will hear the O Antiphons, which you’ll recognize from “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The entire exercise teaches your children about how Jesus fulfills the prophecies of the Old Testament. The Jesse Tree is an Advent tradition my children look forward to every year. As they grow, they gain new insights into Our Savior and His miraculous birth.