Preparing for Christmas
Today, Audrey (my 14 year old daughter—equal parts Peter Pan and 40-year-old mom), excitedly announced that in exactly one month we will be hauling up all the Christmas boxes from the basement—it will be the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Umm—thanks, Child—you can stop with your countdown—I still need to buy Halloween costumes! But she’s right (and she was so proud to shock me with this information). At our house, we begin meticulously placing all things red, sparkly, snowy, and shiny right smack in the middle of our Thanksgiving preparations (which we host yearly—so yes, nothing much going on).
How did this tradition begin—why do this to myself? I will give Jason (my hubby) all the credit—he has a thing about starting large projects in the midst of preparing to entertain for a major holiday or function. Which used to drive me crazy…(now I just look forward to obscure things getting organized—or built).
(Me) “Honey, no one is going to see the guest room closet, let’s just focus on vacuuming?!
In regards to this particular decorating tradition, it must have started around our 2nd Thanksgiving…I was thinking it would be great to have clean toilets before our guests arrived, but Jason was thinking—this is the perfect time to put up the Christmas tree! Of course! And so it began…the tradition of Christmas decorating right before Thanksgiving. In all honesty, I’ve come to love and look forward to it—it’s the one time of year my house is actually decorated AND it feels like a major seasonal project is already marked off my to-do list.
Traditions That Focus Our Hearts
Of all our Christmas traditions and decorations, one has become especially dear—our Jesse Tree. I had never heard of a Jesse Tree (so don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of it either). Some sweet moms shared the idea with me about 10 years ago—a perfect advent activity that keeps the focus on Jesus and engages my kids.
A Jesse Tree is an advent calendar of sorts, the name coming from Isaiah 11: 1-2:
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord“
(Quick Bible Review: Jesse is the father of King David—the ancestry line of Jesus)
How Does It Work?
We begin on the first Sunday of Advent (but you could start on December 1). Each evening we hang a simple ornament on a small Christmas tree. The ornaments correlate to bible readings and family devotions, which take you chronologically through the bible—from Creation to the Birth of Christ. I have seen many creative twists—some people use a vase of branches, some use a paper tree taped to the wall, some buy ornaments (sets can be purchased online), and some make their own ornaments.
I found a set of free printable ornaments and my little ones colored, painted, and glittered them with such joy. And that’s what makes my set priceless—every year I’m reminded of those sweet little people (who have now grown into big teenage people—still sweet, but less inclined to glitter). I punched holes in the tops and strung them with twine—even the “craft challenged,” like me, can do this project!
You will need:
Tree: (mine is just a $3 tree from the hobby store)—Or keep things really simple and just add the ornaments to your traditional Christmas tree!
Ornaments: Buy a set online (try Etsy) or download free printables.
Ann Voskamp has beautiful free printables available on her website. My ornaments come from the Reformed Church of America’s (RCA) website (they have lots of great Jesse Tree and Advent resources–here are more of their ornaments).
Bible Readings/Devotions: I have two sets, and I go back and forth with them—even mix and match. One set of readings comes from Ann Voskamp (years ago she offered them on her website). Now she has published a gorgeous book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, with all the readings and her powerful devotions. I find her passages to be geared a bit more toward my older kids (and me)—longer, reflective, and thought provoking. My littlest people (3 year old twins and 6 year old son) don’t have the attention span for that; so I often use the short and sweet readings and devotions available on the RCA website. To keep things convenient—I print them all off, staple, and store the devotionals near the Jesse tree and ornaments.
You Can’t Do it All—Spend Time on What Matters
So many things vie for our attention this time of year…In a season filled with countless preparations, it’s easy to overlook our hearts—preparing them for the awe, the miracle, the grace of Christmas. As moms, it’s especially easy in the season of giving (and going)—to end up feeling empty and exhausted. The Jesse Tree tradition fills me up—and keeps our family focused on Jesus.
RELATED POST: The Wise Men Journey–A New Christmas Tradition (Beautiful Devotional and Story Focusing on Christ’s Birth)
I’d love to hear about your favorite Advent and Christmas traditions! How do you keep your kids (and yourself) focused on Christ throughout the season?
Praying we all find much Wonder, Joy, and Peace this Christmas Season! Let’s deck the halls and ready our hearts!
P.S. Here’s a link to Ann Voskamp’s book of family devotionals created for a Jesse Tree: