Jesse Tree 18. Isaiah - Wednesday, 15 December 2021

READ: Isaiah 9

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined.                                                                                                                          (Isaiah 9:2)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, prince of Peace.      (Isaiah 9:6)

REFLECT

Have you ever been in a place where it’s pitch black? If you’ve ever gone camping, maybe you know the feeling of not being able to see anything. You’re out in the bush at night, and you can’t see the moon or stars. You can’t see anything at all. Or maybe it’s just really dark in your bedroom at night. That can feel scary and confusing, can’t it? When you don’t know what’s around you, you might feel afraid and lonely and not want to move.

This is the kind of deep darkness the people of Israel walked in. Well, it wasn’t actually night-time all the time, but it had started to feel that way. They couldn’t see the person who was coming to save them. After a while, they started to think he might never come. They had no hope.

This chapter in Isaiah reminds the people of Israel of the light that is coming. The sun will come up in the morning! It won’t be night-time forever. The light that is coming is a person, and his name is Jesus. He is coming to save his people. When he is here, we don’t have to be scared or sad anymore. We can feel full of peace and joy.

Jesus is the light of the world. From now until Christmas, we are getting ready to have the night become day. Jesus is on his way!

TALK

  • How do you feel when it’s completely dark?
  • What about during the day, when it’s bright?

PRAY

God of light, I can’t wait for you to come again. I pray that you would shine into the darkest corners of our world and of my life, bringing hope and setting things right. Help me to shine your light also so that others can see and experience you. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree.

Bless someone by giving them a candle or torch that says, Jesus is the light of the World.



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 17. Esther - Tuesday, 14 December 2021

READ Esther 1 & 4

When they told Mordecai what Esther had said, Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”                                   (Esther 4: 13-16)

REFLECT

Esther had come to be queen in the most unlikely of ways, and now King Ahasuerus has agreed to order all the Jews to be killed. So, Queen Esther decided that she would try to talk him out of it. It might mean that she would be killed, too, since no one was allowed to talk to the king without being invited, but she was willing to die to save her people.

Does that sound familiar? Jesus was also willing to die to save his people. And he wasn’t just willing to die. He actually died, and his death brought us life. Jesus took the biggest risk of all, which frees us to take risks, too. Death isn’t so scary anymore when we remember that Jesus has already died and beat death.

Esther’s life belonged to God, so she was free to risk her life. By taking that risk, she brought life for her people. The risks we take might also bring life to other people!

TALK

  • What do you think made Esther so brave?
  • What hard or scary things have you seen others do?
  • What hard or scary thing could you do to help make other people’s lives better?

PRAY

Jesus Christ, thank you for making death less scary. Help me to be brave and listen to you and take risks so I can help other people for you. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree

Do some random acts of Kindness today to show God's love to others. 


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 16. Elijah - Monday, 13 December 2021

READ 1 Kings 18

At the time of the offering of the oblation, the prophet Elijah came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your bidding. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.”                                                                                                         (1 Kings 18:17-39)

REFLECT

God doesn’t often seem very popular. In the prophet Elijah’s time, there were a lot of people who trusted in pretend gods, while Elijah, trusted in the one true God. But just because God wasn’t popular doesn’t mean he wasn’t powerful. It didn’t matter how many people believed in the pretend gods, Baal and Asherah. Those pretend gods were exactly that: pretend. So of course, they couldn’t actually help anybody! No matter how hard people prayed to Baal and Asherah, nothing would ever happen. But as soon as Elijah prayed to God, God lit the whole altar on fire!

God is the only one who can really help us. God’s power doesn’t come from his popularity. God’s power comes from himself, from his deep love for other people. God showed his love in the biggest way when he came to earth as Jesus. And God showed his power in the biggest way when Jesus won the fight against evil and death.

TALK

  • Have you ever experienced God in a powerful way like Elijah did?
  • Do other people's opinions of God affect your ability to trust or love him?
  • Would it be easier for you to trust in God if you saw a big display of his power? Why?

PRAY

God, thank you for showing me your power and your love through Jesus. I know in my head that you alone are God, but I don’t always believe it in my heart. The gods of health and happiness are so seductive. Forgive me for putting my trust in them. Give me confidence in you and your power and help me to trust you always. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree.

Share about God’s power with someone you meet today.



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 prayer and reflection

Like many of the key moments of the calendar, Advent has the potential to trip some big and complicated feelings – making space and acknowledging those feelings isn’t diminishing or detracting from the joy of the season of Advent, though. Making space for conflicting feelings and experiences is an opportunity for us to gather our whole community into the experience of faith. Advent recognises a sense of hope, in the

middle of difficult circumstances. It recognises things growing out of struggle. It recognises the Kingdom of God breaking in – and subverting the expectations of the people who were looking for the Saviour. When we make space for difficult feelings, and name them as real and legitimate, we also make space for the grace of God to come and meet us all in our feelings and struggles and hardships, and we make space for new things to grow out of that.


PRAY

As we enter this time of Advent, we acknowledge that there are those within our community who hold grief in their hearts. For some their grief is long lived, a companion, not welcome but familiar. For others their grief is new, bright, and loud. For some their grief is approaching at a speed they cannot predict but with an inevitability that has already taken its toll. Hope and pain are held together in the story of the birth of Christ.


(light the candle)


We light this candle and remember Sara and Abram, Hannah and Ephraim, Elizabeth and Zechariah who waited and grieved.

We light this candle and remember the stories that remain untold because that much-loved child has not arrived.

We light this candle and remember the families who loved a child whose life did not get lived and the families who held those they loved only briefly.

We light this candle and remember that families come in many different forms.


At Advent, we tell this story of the birth of a child, unexpected, and beloved. And we hold in our hearts the knowledge that in a few months at Easter, we grieve the loss of that life, and all the things that it means to us as believers. Joy and grief, together. This is the story of a family who did not fit their society expectations, a family who loved and grieved, just as many of us in this space are family who love and grieve together.


We light this candle and remember that stories of birth and family are often touched by grief and pain.

We light this candle to remember those who weep silent tears of the heart.

We light this candle and remember.

 

by Stacey Wilson from: https://intergen.org.au/product/advent-series-something-is-coming/

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Jesse Tree 12. Solomon - Sunday, 12 December 2021

READ 1 Kings 5-6

So I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord said to my father David, “Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.”        (1 Kings 5:5)

Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, “Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes, obey my ordinances, and keep all my commandments by walking in them, then I will establish my promise with you, which I made to your father David. I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.”                                                                                             (1 Kings 6:11-13)

REFLECT

The temple was really important. If you read all of 1 Kings 6, you’ll see how intricate and beautiful it was! It was very tall, and the whole thing was made of gorgeous wood, with pictures of trees and fruit and angels carved into it. The inside was covered in gold, so everything gleamed and sparkled.

It wasn’t just a building. It was the place where God and humans could meet. Before Solomon built the temple, God met his people in a big tent called a tabernacle. Inside the temple, there was a special room, called the Holy of Holies, where God lived. In that place, God and humans could be together. But God had even better plans. He didn’t want people to have to go into a tiny room to be with him in person. (And not just anyone—only certain people—could go into the room.) So, God decided that he would become the temple. Jesus called himself the temple. He is both God and human, the place where the two meet. We don’t have to go into a special room anymore. Now we can know God directly because of Jesus!

TALK

  • Why do you think God wants us to meet him anywhere, not just in a special room in the temple?
  • If we can meet God anywhere, what is so special about churches?
  • Where do you "meet God" or feel closest to Him? (In the garden? Your bed? By the ocean?)

PRAY

Jesus, thank you for being the temple, the place where I can meet God. By your Holy Spirit, I am connected with God, and can meet you anywhere, anytime. Help me to remember that and sense your presence with me today. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree

Take someone to your favourite place to be with God and spend time together with Him. 



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 3. Noticing the Signs - Sunday, 12 December 2021

READ Isaiah 12:2-6 & Luke 3:7-18

This week, the readings encourage us to pay attention: to see the signs of the presence of God among us and encourage us to notice these markers and to act like the Kingdom is already here. Isaiah, written to people under threat from powerful nations, encourages people to remember and see what God has

done for them and amongst them and in Luke, John the Baptist preaches to the people, encouraging them to behave like people of the Kingdom of God. This week, we will add wise people and stars to our tree, recognising that paying attention to the signs, and acting accordingly can be risky. Today we’ll think about what God is asking us to do in response to the presence of the Kingdom.

REFLECT, TALK & DO

This is the third week of Advent – In the first week, we looked at anticipating and thought about how something incredible was going to grow out of something unimportant, and we built a tree, grown out of this stump, constructed of the branches of our hopes and anticipation for good things that are coming.

In the second week of Advent, we thought about Advent as being about preparing. We thought about the ways that the Bible had encouraged people to “make way” – prophecy about the Kingdom of Peace that was coming, and the way that the paths were being made straight and easier to walk on, and then John the Baptist, encouraging people to sort their lives out in preparation for Jesus to walk with them.

This week we are noticing the signs. When the wise men came to see Jesus, they didn’t arrive out of thin air – the Bible tells us that they had been watching the signs and portents: they could see that something very important was on its way. They believed the signs and they packed up and travelled a long way in order to see the thing that they believed they would see.

It seems like the wise men took a huge risk – leaving their lands and homes and families, to travel a really long way, in order to see the thing that the signs were pointing to. It sometimes feels like God asks us to trust him, to make big choices, in hope. That can feel really risky. So, this week, we are going to spend some time, quietly reflecting on the ways that God is asking us to take a risk and go on a journey with him.

  • What signs have you seen that God might be asking you to do something?
  • What risky thing might God be asking you to do? Maybe it’s taking a stand about something at work or school, or to befriend someone that you don’t know very well, maybe it’s about going to study, or volunteer for a worship team or one of the church ministries?
  • Who can you talk to about it? And what might be your next steps?

As you think, write and colour on the stars and Wisemen as your prayer or commitment and then put it on the tree here, or take it home, to remind yourself that being brave and doing a risky thing that God is asking us to do is a gift that we can give to God.

PRAY

The wise men watched and saw the star – they paid attention to the signs and took a risk. They traveled far and they traveled long, to see the one who was foretold. The wise men brought gifts: gold for the King that the baby would be, frankincense for the priestly way that Jesus would connect us to God, and myrrh for the death that was coming. We bring these wise men and stars as symbols of risky journeys and challenges that we are thinking about, as we try our best to follow God. Please help us to remember and commit to these things. Amen.


Watery Advent - JOY

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.

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

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

2: Joy which soaks into us and makes our world stand still, like a sudden summer downpour.

All: We long for your joy, O God.

1: Joy which makes our soul dance like kids under a sprinkler on the lawn.

All: We long for your joy, O God.

2: Joy which becomes the centre of our life with others, like the water boiling in the kettle for a cuppa with friends.

All: We long for your joy, O God.

1: I invite you to name aloud people and places which are in particular need of God’s joy at this time e.g.:People spending Christmas far away from loved ones; People feeling pressure to buy expensive presents; People living with mental health problems, especially depression; People around the world suffering the effects of disasters; People facing the possibility of losing their homes or farmland; People living in isolation; People living with the loss of their abilities and independence; People struggling to be faithful in difficult circumstances.

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

All: We long for your joy, 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 14. David - Saturday, 11 December 2021

READ 2 Samuel 5, 8

The Lord said to [David]: “It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. (2 Samuel 5:1-5)

REFLECT

Kings and shepherds seem like exact opposites. Kings sit on thrones. They wear expensive clothes and talk to important people. Shepherds, on the other hand, stand on the hillsides. They wear clothes that can get dirty, and they talk mostly to sheep.

David was both. He was a shepherd that God chose to be king. A shepherd would probably make a very good king, since shepherds have to be humble, and they probably care more about people than about power.

Can you guess who else is a shepherd-king?  If you guessed Jesus, you’re exactly right. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows all of us as well as a shepherd knows his sheep, and he was willing to die so that we can live. Jesus is also the King of kings. He beat the powers of sin and death. Now he sits on his throne, ruling over all of creation.

It’s an honour for David to be called both “shepherd of my people Israel” and “ruler over Israel” because he’s not the only shepherd-king in Scripture. In John 10, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, the one who knows all of his sheep and lays down his life for them. And he is also king, the one who is victorious over the powers of sin, death, and evil.

TALK

  • Why would a shepherd be a good king?
  • What could some of the rulers and leaders of our country today do better at?
  • How could you help them?

PRAY

King Jesus, thank you for having the heart of a shepherd! How wonderful that you are both mighty and gentle, both self-sacrificing and victorious. Would you bring a spirit of gentleness and self-sacrifice to the political rulers and leaders of society today? Amen

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree.

Find a way to bless a political ruler or leader in your society.



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. Samuel - Friday, 10 December 2021

READ: 1 Samuel 1, 3, 9, 16

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”                                                                                         (1 Samuel 16:1)

Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.                                                                                                                    (1 Samuel 16:10-15)

REFLECT

It’s hard not to love the story of an underdog. Like so many people in Jesus’ family history, Samuel and David are unlikely picks. Samuel is the son of Hannah, a much longed-for child who was dedicated to the Lord and was called by God by name early in his life. And here he is, being asked to anoint a new king after the last one was rejected – but it’s not the firstborn as everyone expects, It’s David, the baby of the family, the last of Jesse’s eight sons. In his life thus far, he hasn’t been much of a hero. When Samuel anoints him, David hasn’t defeated Goliath. He hasn’t created complex battle strategies. He’s an unknown farm boy.

Yet it’s David, the underdog, whom God chooses to lead his people. God subverts expectations, choosing a young boy to later anoint the Kings of Israel and a young shepherd to be the King. God has a habit of subverting expectations. David was an unexpected choice, as was Israel as a whole. If you wanted to bless the world, would you work through a tiny people group, often dominated by other nations?

And when you finally came to save your people and express your love for the whole world, would you come in the flesh as a member of that underdog nation? Would you be born as a baby, vulnerable and unknown? Would you work as a common tradesman, acquiring none of the experience or accolades of a political victor? Would you submit to humiliation, persecution, and even death at the hands of a powerful empire?

In Jesus Christ, a descendant of Jesse and David, God’s love for the whole world is shown. Jesus is the one anointed to be king, not just of Israel but of all people. In the greatest subversion of expectations, God makes himself the underdog and triumphs over sin and death.

TALK

  • What other stories have an underdog as the hero?
  • How is God using you, even though you’re not a grown-up or the most powerful and richest person?

PRAY

Sometimes you surprise me, God! You like to use people whom the world doesn’t think are important. Thank you, Lord, for working in ways contrary to what I expect. Please help me remember that you want to use me, too. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree

Do something kind or unexpected for someone who others might think of as unimportant. 



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 12. Ruth - Thursday, 9 December 2021

READ: Ruth 1-4

Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.” [Ruth] said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.”                                                                                                                                                                     (Ruth 3:1-4:12)

REFLECT

If you read the whole book of Ruth, you may notice where the action takes place: in Bethlehem. It’s not the last time we’ll find ourselves in that town this Advent.

Maybe you know this story as a story about a woman uncommonly devoted to her mother in-law. Or a story about a woman humble yet bold enough to find favour with Boaz, who could make life easier for these two widows. And certainly, it is a story about Ruth’s faithfulness. But it’s also a story about Boaz’s faithfulness, which points to the faithfulness of one who was born in Bethlehem years later.

In Israelite law, there was a provision for widows with no sons. The brother of the deceased man was commanded to take the man’s widow as his wife, both redeeming the man’s land and providing a son to carry on the family name. Without this man, called a kinsman-redeemer, the widow would be left with nothing, and the family would cease to exist.

In the book of Ruth, Boaz steps up as the kinsman-redeemer, a relative of Naomi’s husband with the power to redeem the land, marry Ruth, and carry on the family. Who else do we know who steps up as a kinsman-redeemer? Indeed, Jesus Christ is our kinsman-redeemer. By virtue of his humanity, he is our brother, our kinsman, and he is willing to become the bridegroom in order to redeem us. He faithfully steps up to save us. He lovingly joins himself to us, impoverished though we are, and makes us his own. Thanks be to God.

TALK

  • What about Boaz made him willing to marry Ruth, even though he didn’t know her?
  • Why do you think Jesus was willing to rescue us?

PRAY:

Jesus, thanks for taking me and making me part of the wonderful family of God. How humbling it is that you would consider yourself my kinsman, a member of my family. And how humbling that you would pay the price with your life to redeem me. Thank you. Amen.

BLESS & DO

Add the next picture to your tree.

Think about and share with someone 3 great things that happened this year. 



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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