It’s Advent! We were in Hong Kong last week, and there seemed to be carols playing and decorated buildings and flashing “Joy to the World” signs everywhere! So by the time we were back in Beijing we were certainly warmed up to it being that time of year.
One of the things we have been working on at Congregation of the Good Shepherd is how to help children engage with the liturgical calendar and the seasons of the church year. As we just rent a room for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning, any decorations or physical cues and clues have to be quickly assembled and easily stored. The wreath needs to be delegated to someone with a vehicle, as getting a taxi on a freezing Sunday morning can be hard work – and bearing greenery and the many other things that go with pastors to and from church on a Sunday morning just makes it all the more unlikely that a driver will stop in order for you to let a whole lot of cold air into his (occasionally her) cab as you pile your liturgical supplies in.
This year we decided to have an Advent Tree. Which is sort of like a Jesse Tree but not really. A Jesse Tree usually depicts the genealogy of Jesus or of the household of faith from Adam and Eve through the patriarchs and matriarchs, and on through the generations. Our Advent Tree is intended to capture something of the season of hope, expectation and longing.
We spent a lot of time trying to work out how to produce this tree! We considered fabric (the fabric market is a long way away and who would sew it?). We considered card or some other kind of drawing board but it needed to last four weeks, not get tatty or bent as it was tucked behind cupboards each week and it needed to stand upright without developing that cardboard curve in the middle (no walls to fasten it to).
So, with ten days to go (it was a bit of a last minute idea!) we asked our Chinese assistant for help. We sent her a picture of a stylised plywood very European-designer-looking sort of a tree and asked her if she thought there was anywhere we could find a thing sort of like that in Beijing. At kind of short notice. With a limited budget.
She is a champion! She commissioned a tree, had it shipped to Beijing, and this morning it appeared, ready for the season of Advent!
This morning we added one green shoot (sorry about only taking a before shot!).
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his roots. (Isaiah 11:1).
We are looking for signs of life, for signs of hope, for the greening of what feels dry and dead… We’re looking forward to watching the Advent Tree be transformed over the weeks of Advent.