O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Linking up with Rosie for {phfr}. I can't get enough of that cute little girl of hers!

The Advent traditions in our family go back to our very first Advent together as a married couple. Back before there was a Sister Stinky or a Sister Nugget...back when there was just the Abbot and me and the occasional friend spending the weekend at our place.

That first Advent, the time of waiting was bittersweet. The Abbot and I were hoping and praying for a child of our own, and in the meantime we decided to take the Christ child eagerly into our hearts. I remember looking at Mary and her baby and longing for my own. The following year, little Sister Stinky was nestled in her car seat, sleeping away during Midnight Mass.

In subsequent years, Advent has taken on a whole new meaning for me, as a mother. Now I look at Mary and her child and think - did Our Lady of La Leche have problems teaching her son to latch properly? Surely his little diapers were full of poop that looked just like Sister Nugget's, and I'm sure he had that incredibly sweet newborn smell. Were Mary and Joseph exhausted by his little wake-ups all night long...but simultaneously didn't mind? (Any brand new parent knows that feeling...you want your sleep but you are also just so excited about the fact that you have your very own little baby!!) Did he have a head full of soft baby hair? Did he make those silly faces that newborns do? And when Mary snuggled next to him as he slept, did she wake up to find his little body had curved fit to the outline of hers?

What a gift it is to be loved by a God who was willing to become a baby for our sake.


We begin our Advent prayer each night by lighting a candle (and can I just say that our little pink-lover asks me about the rose candle every day, "Light pink candle, Mommy?"), and singing the first verse of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel.
That mourns in lowly exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,
shall come to thee, O Israel.

After we sing, we read the day's book from this lovely little Advent calendar.


We get the Bible from our family's prayer table...

...and we read our nightly Jesse tree scriptures.

The Jesse Tree tradition is something that goes back to that first Advent of our marriage, when I was working at a parish and developing the curriculum and materials for a program for children with special needs. One of the levels of curriculum revolved around the liturgical year, and so there was a whole month of Advent curriculum. A significant part of the Advent curriculum was the Jesse tree, used to help the children (and the one adult student in the program!) understand the story of salvation history, through the lens of "Jesus' family tree."

So, anyway, while I was writing this curriculum and making the materials, I decided to go ahead and make an extra set of ornaments for our family (and, hopefully, our someday children). We've been treasuring them every since. :-)

I didn't grow up using the Jesse tree for Advent prayer, but I quickly fell in love with it. It is such a beautiful scriptural study to follow throughout Advent! That first year of our marriage, we did all of the reading associated with each night. Since then, we've limited ourselves to a verse or two of Scripture per night, to accommodate the shorter attention spans in the family.

If you're looking for a good Scripture study to use, this is the one that I used with my students, and this is the one we've used as a family for five years running. Both of them are wonderful! I personally like the latter, especially if you are able to read all of the Scripture. It is a very rich study of the story of salvation history and the lineage of Jesus. I thoroughly enjoyed it when we were able to read it in its entirety and I still love it, even we can only read a short excerpt a night. However, if you are looking for a shorter study, then I'd definitely recommend the former.

After we read the Scripture for that night, Sister Stinky hangs the corresponding ornament on the tree while we sing:

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel...shall come to thee, O Israel!

Lastly, we read a book together. This year is the first year that we tried out Jessica's idea of unwrapping a Christmas book to read each night during Advent. It is the highlight of Sister Stinky's day!! She loves unwrapping a "present" each night. (If you haven't visited Jessica's blog, Shower of Roses yet you really must. It's one of my favorite places to visit and explore in all the blogosphere! If she didn't live across the country I would probably be begging her for liturgically themed playdates and parenting advice!)

I know there have been a lot of people talking about wanting to build up their religious Christmas book collection so that it's possible to do this. I have one suggestion for you - secondhand books!! I got almost all of our books from thrift stores, resale shops, and second hand book sales. I spent less than a dollar for most of the books in our collection and we have some real gems!


I also take out our various nativity scenes for Sister Stinky to play with.

The Abbot says we have too many Nativity scenes. I say there's no such thing!

Don't believe me? You can read here about how nativity scenes aren't just for Christmas!


Let's be honest...this little face is what you all really come here for, though...right?

I hear her chirping her morning song in the other room. Off to start the day!


  1. I LOVE all of your nativity scenes! There certainly is no such thing as too many, especially with little ones. Which reminds me.... little baby Jesus has gone missing from our scene and I should attempt to locate him today....

    1. Baby Jesus tends to go missing around here, too, occasionally. ;-)

  2. Beautiful! I haven't gotten it together to do the Jesse Tree but your description has really intrigued me. you can't have too many manger scenes!

  3. Yup, seeing pictures of that little face, with those cheeks, is exactly why I read your blog;)

  4. There are never too many nativities. We will have 11 by Christmas and enjoy them all. Oh, and I second your sentiment on Jessica she is a rare blessing who lives way too far away. Liturgical playdates, excellent idea!

    1. Jessica is such a gift! I wish I knew her IRL, but just getting to know her by following her blog is a blessing in itself. She is such an inspiration to me!

  5. We have the same Advent calendar and also sing O Come O Come Emmanuel which gives me goosebumps every time I hear or sing the song. I was feeling disappointed that we didn't have enough books to wrap for the month but I'm going to start a collection throughout the year so maybe we can start the tradition next year.


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