Preparing for Christmas
**Updated from the original 2017 post…
I love Christmas–all the decorating, the baking, the entertaining, all of the things…
We start preparing 2 weekends before Thanksgiving…that way I have time to put all the boxes away before the weekend of Thanksgiving preparations.
For years, getting our Christmas decor out before Thanksgiving felt crazy…Growing up in my family, we were doing good to just to get the tree up a week before Christmas!
In regards to this particular decorating tradition, it started around our 2nd Thanksgiving…I was thinking it would be great to have clean toilets before our dinner guests arrived, but Jason was thinking—this is the perfect time to put up the Christmas tree!
And so it began…the tradition of Christmas decorating 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.
But it’s one thing to prepare our homes for Christmas…It’s quite another thing to prepare our hearts.
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 15 years ago—it’s 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’ve 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 young adult 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!
Materials for Your Jesse Tree:
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–where I got mine). Now she has published a gorgeous book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, with all the readings and her devotions–as well as an interactive, pop-up Jesse Tree Book: The Wonder of the Greatest Gift. I find her passages to be geared a bit more toward my older kids (and me)—longer, reflective, and thought provoking.
My littlest people (7 year old twins) 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.
But often my favorite way to share the stories is just using a children’s Bible–especially,The Jesus Storybook Bible: When Every Story Whispers His Name.(I simply use the other devotionals as guides to help me know which bible story to read next!)
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 own 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!