Sometimes it is very easy to get caught up in the materialism that overwhelms the holiday seasons that are right around the corner. I know that I have been guilty of forgetting where my focus needs to be and allowed the world’s “bigger is always better” and “what’s in it for me” approaches to Thanksgiving and Christmas instead of focusing on our amazing Savior and the miraculous gift He deeply desires to give each one of us.
God has been growing me in SO many ways throughout my life…but especially over the last few years. God has helped Will and I both to listen to those little “pricks” of conviction when we have fallen into that same trap ourselves. Since last year was our first Christmas together as a family…we decided to start with celebrating Advent in our home. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this tradition…its a beautiful tradition celebrated in different ways by different families and churches.
Advent…means a time of preparation. The idea is to spend the four weeks before Christmas Day in a time of preparing our hearts and lives for the coming of Christ. It is also a time to focus on sharing the Good News of Jesus with others…after all…Jesus is the Gift to all of mankind that we celebrate as we celebrate Christmas. In today’s world it can be very difficult to remember that as we are bombarded by commercials, ads, signs, sales that shout “love means spending a fortune on gifts for Christmas”!
So we decided to take a step back…look at our own habits…read God’s Word…and find ways to really focus and celebrate the coming of our Lord.
By now you are probably wondering why I am writing this now when October isn’t even over. Great question!
Actually…I have always wanted to really celebrate Advent with more Jesus and less of everything else but sadly I waited until the last-minute and by then…ended up rushing all of our preparations and we weren’t able to take our time and really enjoy and savor the amazing stories in Scripture that lead up to the birth of our Savior.
So this year, Will and I began talking about what we needed to change from last year…we both prayed about it and then began our research. We decided that we both wanted to celebrate Advent. And this year, since we are now a homeschooling family, we wanted to take the time to savor each Scripture…each story…each tradition…each preparation…each devotion. So I was so humbled and honored when Will delegated the research of ideas for us to use this year with our family to me. I was also delighted! This is my favorite time of year! It is also the first time I have been so blessed with such a delightful, Godly husband who wants to keep our focus on Christ in our preparations throughout the holidays.
There are SO many resources and ideas available on the internet to shower the light of Christ in the holidays!! I plan to share one of the ideas we are using each week from now through Advent. Why so early? Because…I want you to have time actually get your own ideas together for your own family…although most are simple things…there is some preparation involved so its good to get started.
This week I am thrilled to share that we are going to continue our tradition of using a Jesse Tree and devotions to prepare our hearts and build the excitement of our celebration of Jesus’ birth at our house.
So what is a Jesse Tree? It’s really special!
The tradition of the Jesse Tree comes from the beautiful tradition of the Jewish people who love to go back through their faith history and share the amazing stories of God interacting and stepping into their lives. The term Jesse Tree comes from this amazing passage in Isaiah:
1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. Isaiah 1: 1 (NKJV)
I encourage you to take the time to read the entire passage…Isaiah 1: 1-10. Isn’t that amazing!??? This passage fills me with awe! This amazing prophecy of the “Branch that shall grow out of the root of Jesse” is telling of the coming of Jesus Christ…the Messiah!!! This is so exciting to me! Wow!
So here’s what I love about the celebration of “The Jesse Tree” during the time of preparation for Christmas (Advent season)…
Each day, beginning with the Sunday following Thanksgiving and ending with Christmas Eve, we take a passage from Scripture that takes the amazing testimony of the stories of Scripture that tell of the coming of Christ…beginning back in Genesis and end with the birth of our Savior. It’s really awesome. Here’s where the tree comes in…the “root of Jesse” is the family tree of Jesse from whence Jesus came. So we use a tree as part of the celebration.
Each Scripture has a symbol to represent it. This is put in the form of an ornament. Last year we used some wonderful free resources to make our ornaments for our Jesse Tree. Our daughter, Annie, and I colored, glittered, cut and put colorful paper on the backs of each ornament printable. We found them on the website for The Reformed Church of America. This link goes to the ornament printables, instructions for making your own ornaments, a devotion booklet for adults and one for families to use in Advent 2011.
Will and I were blown away as to how well our children responded to our Jesse Tree devotions. It really made a difference. These ornaments were really helpful and we enjoyed using them…but we have decided to try making our own real ornaments this year using fabric, felt, and other craft supplies as part of our homeschooling curriculum. As the boys and I decide how to best make an ornament that symbolizes each day’s Scripture passage we will be reading the passage and talking about what it means.
By the time Advent arrives the excitement will be built and they will be even more prepared to understand and learn the verses and passages that Will and I will share with them. I can’t wait to show you our creations during Advent!!! Besides…if we don’t start working on our ornaments now we won’t have them all made in time! (We are a little slow with little hands working together…and we want to savor the process.)
When it comes to “Jesse Tree Devotions” there are many good ones available in blogland…especially right before Advent.
Our family’s first Advent together was very special for many reasons. One of the biggest blessings that grew out of sitting together as a family while Will led us in devotions each evening before we went to bed was the understanding of how special and close it brought us as a family. It was during our Jesse Tree Family Devotions that the idea of having Family Worship year round was born. It was in this way that Advent of 2010 really changed our family forever. It blesses us so much to be able to help make your Advent devotions special and simple to do.
Question: So have you ever used “Jesse Tree Devotions” for yourself or with your family?
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Preparing with my family at the foot of the Cross,
Mrs Mary Joy Pershing
Featured in “The Christian Home Magazine” Issue 34