Though it happens each year, I'm always shocked to see Christmas lights, ornaments, and candy for sale in stores before Halloween has even passed. But Christmas always seems to sneak up on me, so I should be grateful for the reminder that I need to start preparing.
When I think about preparing for Christmas the first things that come to mind are deciding on and buying presents, decorating the tree, and attempting to send out a family Christmas card (a goal we have yet to accomplish). Admittedly, the last thing that usually comes to mind is the most important: preparing to celebrate Christ's coming. First of all, I'm thankful that God's grace covers all of my failings, including my inability to constantly remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Secondly, I'm thankful that there are traditions we can adopt in our family to help us focus our attention on Christ during this time of year when it's so easy to get distracted by all the exciting things going on.
You've probably heard the four weeks before Christmas referred to as the Advent Season. Advent comes from a Latin word that means coming. During this season, we keep in mind both "comings" of Christ: the first that happened in Bethlehem, and the second that is yet to come. Celebrating advent isn't just about being thankful to God for Christ's first coming to earth as a baby at Christmas, but it's also about enjoying his presence with us now as the Holy Spirit, and looking forward to the day Jesus will return to earth and make all things new.
But you might be asking yourself, "What exactly does celebrating Advent look like, anyway?" One way to celebrate Advent is to use a Jesse Tree. A Jesse Tree Project (taken from Isaiah 11:1) is a four week survey of God's work, from creation to Christ, looking at one person or event in the Old Testament each day that points to Christ. Once a day, a short devotion is read together, and then an ornament that corresponds to that day's devotion is hung on a tree as a reminder of the person or event in the Bible that points to the coming Christ.
If you're interested in starting a Jesse Tree tradition with you family, we would love for you to join our Jesse Tree Ornament Swap. Here's the way it works: we will be using a book called The Advent Jesse Tree (These will be available for purchase for $10 each) For each of the 25 days of advent, this book has two short devotions, one for adults and one for children. There is a symbol that corresponds to each day's devotional, and that symbol will be used to make a simple ornament to hang on your tree.
If 25 people sign up to participate in the Ornament Swap, then each person would sign up to make 25 of ONE type of ornament. Then, on November 27th at 2:00pm, we will all meet up at Kelly Blanchard's to swap ornaments. Each person will go home with a complete set of Jesse Tree ornaments.
Not crafty? Not a problem!
What's that you say? You're not crafty? No worries! These ornaments can be as simple as printing an image of the symbol you choose from the book, punching a hole, and threading some string through the hole. If you're feeling a little crafty, but aren't sure where to start, I've got plenty of resources to give you ideas and get you going. Send me an email if you're interested in signing up! My email address is below.
Making the Tree
All the children who attend Children's Worship at City Church will be sent home with a simple "tree" (one per family) on Sunday, November 27th, for use as a Jesse Tree. If you prefer not to start this tradition, feel free to re-purpose your child's tree! If you don't have a child in Children's Worship, or if you don't have a child at all (Jesse Trees are for everyone!), and are interested in the activity, I'm happy to provide directions on how to make a Jesse Tree of your own.