The Nativity Fast begins soon (even sooner on the New Calendar) and it’s time to think about how we will lead our families in this time of preparation for Christ’s Nativity.
When we celebrate the feasts of the Church, we Orthodox do not simply note the anniversary of an event, but we enter into it — our earthly timeline gives way to the eternal, and we simply step into the Nativity. So we are preparing ourselves not for the birthday of Christ, but in fact, for the birth of Christ. Thanks be to God, for our very beautiful faith!
Many Christian parents will use a “Jesse Tree” to spend some time teaching their children about the Prophets of the Old Testament. Through the Prophets, God prepared His people to receive Christ — so we look to them as we are preparing to receive Him. What a beautiful way to mark the fast, to study the Scriptures, and to focus on what an amazing gift it is for God to have come down to join us in the very flesh. It can be hard to find good Orthodox sources appropriate for children on the topic, so I’ll be posting some Raising Saints podcast episodes about the prophets in the coming weeks, God willing.
A friend of mine recently created a beautiful Old Testament timeline that you might want to print up to help your children make sense of the many Bible Stories they learn. Her timeline is both clear and aesthetically beautiful, and is not text-heavy like so many timelines you’ll find (the text is not pretty look at, and is decidedly unintersting to the pre-literate crowd. Even older kids can be turned off by an ugly timeline!) As we prepare for the Nativity Fast, you’ll want to take a look at her beautiful timeline, which amazingly can be printed on a single sheet of paper and is suitable for use in the home and in the parish. Mary Laura is an Orthodox mother — a designer and homeschooler and chanter (and a lovely person all around.) She offers a wonderful blog called Many Mercies, and you will surely find a multitude of resources there! While you’re there, click on Printables to see the various items she’s designed and generously shared and on Baking to see some really great recipes for traditional Orthodox baking (I am bookmarking Lazarakia for our Saturday of Lazarus event next Spring!)
For more information on the Jesse Tree, which is sort of an alternative to the Advent Calendar, I recommend the Antiochian Department of Christian Education’s page on the subject, which includes a nice description and a link to a list of Scripture readings to share with your family as you mark the 40 days of the fast and the 12 days of Christmas.
Do you have any tips or resources you’ve found for the Jesse tree?