Usually waiting is a process to be dreaded, avoided, or endured. Who likes to wait for what she doesn't have but earnestly desires? But every December, I very much look forward to a season of waiting.
Over the last few years, we have begun to develop some special family traditions to keep Jesus at the center of the Christmas season. My favorite by far has been the Jesse Tree. If you’re unfamiliar with this custom, a Jesse Tree is a way of celebrating Advent by tracing the story of redemption through the Old Testament, looking for hints of Jesus in His family tree. The name comes from Isaiah’s messianic prophecy:
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit” (Isaiah 11:1).Each day an ornament is added to the tree, a picture or symbol to remind us of a Bible story that points to Jesus—the ram Abraham sacrificed, Jacob’s ladder, David’s crown, and so on.
In recent years, it seems like Jesse Trees have become quite popular, and there are countless resources out there to get you started. Because there are far more than 24 Old Testament types and prophecies that point to Jesus, each collection of readings and ornaments is a little different.
Last year we used Story Warren's Family Advent Art and Reading Guide (which is a FREE download and includes *gorgeous* printable ornaments) in combination with a Jesus Storybook Bible Advent reading plan (I cannot say enough about this children's Bible storybook; if you somehow haven't seen it, put it at the top of your Christmas list--even if you do not have children!).
This miniature tree sits atop our piano. Its ornaments are a hodgepodge I've cobbled together--some homemade, some found at Hobby Lobby or JoAnn, some printed and mounted to cardstock. For once in my life I have not let "perfect" be the enemy of the good! My ideas and inspiration came from Passionate Homemaking and Rocks in My Dryer. You can get as fancy or as simple as you like--and you can build your collection over the years, rather than having everything "just so" right from the start. If you don't have the time or desire to make your own, there are hundreds of options on Etsy, like this beautiful set.
In addition to the tree, an Advent wreath serves as our December table centerpiece. My wonderfully talented husband made a wooden spiral that holds 24 candles, modeled after this beautiful one designed and crafted by Ann Voskamp's son.
I absolutely love this new tradition. Retracing the unfolding of the Bible's one big story throughout the month keeps the Christmas season focused and builds our anticipation for Jesus' coming to earth. And I think the tactile, interactive stuff (lighting and blowing out candles, hanging ornaments) has done wonders to hold our boys' attention. They loved it last year.
So that's why I am eagerly anticipating waiting! I can't wait to get out all our Christmas boxes after Thanksgiving break and gather once more around the stories and symbols that tell of our coming Savior.
What Advent or Christmas traditions do you anticipate and enjoy each year? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!