Take a grumpy old man working in a Church, add an inquisitive little boy, assorted other characters and mix in the greatest story ever told and you have the book, The Jesse Tree, written by British author, Geraldine McCaughrean. This is sure to be an Advent classic!
Set in the present day, an old woodcarver (who tends to grumpiness) is carving a wooden Jesse Tree for a church. Jesse Trees are an ancient traditional way of showing Jesus' lineage - from the start of the world, through Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Daniel, David, Jonah, John the Baptist and finally to Mary and Joseph in a stable in Bethlehem. The old man is lovingly carving the figures and symbols representing each of 24 stories for the carved tree. The book opens just as he starts to carve the earth and moon, to represent God's creation. An inquisitive boy stops in the church and asks the ubiquitous question, "why"?
Through a series of 24 stories, the man slowly details the story of mankind - from the creation through the fall and right up to Jesus' birth. Each story has a different symbol and link to the Bible.
This book is beautifully told. The pictures are not spectacular, but at the head of each story, a small inset shows the symbol for the story. This makes it very easy to use this book as an Advent Calendar. That's what we're doing this year. In November, my younger children and I crafted the same 24 symbols, but we used oven-bake clay. We then made a cloth tree wall-hanging with 24 strings to attach these symbols. Starting December 1st, we read one story each night, attaching the appropriate symbol. On Christmas Eve we will attach the 24th symbol - the brightest star ever seen - heralding Jesus' birth.
This book, and our homemade Jesse Tree, will be a family tradition for years to come - a tradition that links the Old Testament to the New Testament - that links the first Adam and Eve to the new Adam (Jesus) and new Eve (Blessed Virgin Mary).