Usually waiting is a process to be dreaded, avoided, or endured. Who among us likes to wait for what she doesn't have but earnestly desires? But this fall, I am very much looking forward to a season of waiting.
Over the last several years, I've read all kinds of beautiful ideas for celebrating Advent and building Christ-centered traditions in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It seems, though, that every year Advent sneaks up on me. I don't think much about Christmas at all until after Thanksgiving is over--and then Advent is already underway and I don't manage to do much of anything different or special.
This year, now that Elijah is old enough to begin to understand and participate in some special celebrations, I am looking ahead and making plans for "celebrating waiting" during Advent. I want to spend the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas helping my family focus on Jesus and building excitement about His coming to earth!
The most significant thing I'm anticipating this year is doing a Jesse Tree. If you've never heard the term, a Jesse Tree is a special kind of Advent calendar that tells the grand story of God's plan of redemption, from Creation all the way through the Old Testament to the birth of Jesus. The concept comes from Isaiah 11, where God promises His people that He will bring "a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit" (v. 1). Each day of Advent, you read a story from the Old Testament and look for Christ in that story, adding an ornament to your Jesse Tree to represent a prophecy or an ancestor in the lineage of Christ.
I've downloaded and printed Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree devotional, and just this afternoon I went shopping to purchase a small tree and begin collecting ornaments. The devotional, which can be downloaded for free, includes color pictures that you can cut out and mount on cardstock for simple ornaments, but I like the idea of using three-dimensional objects instead. I've gotten ideas and inspiration for this 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 away the first year.
My wonderfully talented husband recently finished making an Advent wreath modeled after this beautiful one designed and made by Ann Voskamp's son (available for purchase on the website). It is gorgeous!
And a few other pre-Christmas resources and links for your enjoyment:
~I've heard great things about Nancy Guthrie's collection of Christmas readings, entitled Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas. I bought it last year but only got to read a couple of the essays, so I hope to make it through the whole book this year.
~One of my favorite Advent traditions, ever since discovering them four or five years ago, is reading through some of John Piper's Advent poems. I've attempted to write poetry in strict meter and rhyme only enough to know that it's very, very difficult to do well. Piper has (in my opinion) an extraordinary gift for it. Not only is the poetry beautiful, but his "imaginative reconstructions behind figures of the Bible" are amazing. Every year I am moved and awed by the way he points to Christ and the glory of God in these poems. I don't believe he writes new ones anymore, but the 25-year archive of past Advent poems is available at Desiring God's website. I highly recommend listening, not just reading.
~I hope to revisit Noel Piper's excellent book Treasuring God in Our Traditions soon--it's been several years since I first read it, but I know it had some wonderful ideas for meaningful Christmas celebrations.
What Advent or Christmas traditions do you anticipate and enjoy each year? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!