Monday, December 5, 2016

Our Family Tree

I've been looking for an "advent tradition" for a few years now. Something that isn't just surface and fun and candy and gifts, but a serious look into Jesus coming to earth, and also something that will be fun, and fun year after year for all ages, with little alteration. This has been a goal of mine for awhile now, and it was no small task! Last year I finally figured out what I want to do and started to collect the needed things. This year we are "doing it" and it's marvelous, so I wanted to share. This is what we are doing, and changes can definitely be made.

For example, you could leave your tree bare and only add ornaments to it. Or make some balls and number them yourself. Be creative! I will explain what we do, and you can alter this to suit your family.
I found these ornaments at Starbucks on clearance for 14.99 with a $5 gift card!!! They are balls of varying sizes, and they open and close (reusable), they are very solid quality.

This is our Jesse Tree. I found this 4 ft tree at Walmart for $25. It's cute and will last forever. Star topper was also Walmart, and leftover burlap in my closet for a rustic tree skirt. This is the "kids tree" and they loved decorating it themselves!
"If we want our Christmas tree to really stand wondrous and full of meaning, the tree we really need to understand and be astonished by is the family tree of Jesus Christ. Because this is our story - your story. God doesn't cut off all the big cheaters, bad liars, weaselly sneakers, battling brothers, fighting families, and brokenhearted from His family tree...He adopts all the messy and broken and imperfect people into His tree and His story and His heart..."(Ann Voskamp)
Your Jesse Tree could be a large wreath, or a string of garland. It doesn't have to be a tree per se, especially if decorating space does not allow.

I took the verses for each day, and typed them out/printed them out, and filled the ornaments with the verses. Each day, we open the ornament, read the Scripture passage, and remove it from the tree, replacing it with the Jesse Tree ornament that goes for that day with the devotional.

On certain days, not every day, I've added another note to the ornament "Look under the tree for a special surprise". My mom sends certain advents treats and we incorporate them into this. She also has a few cards she's made that fit very well with certain days of the devotional, so again, we blend those in.
When you buy the book, it comes with a link to download and print your own ornaments for the Jesse Tree. I backed mine on tan cardstock. They are gorgeous.
I got all the Jesse Tree ornaments lined up by day, and ready to be hung. 
This is the book - which in the USA is about $20 on Amazon. It's absolutely gorgeous, with thick pages and pretty art. It's called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas
Each day there is a shorter verse, a longer passage to read (which I put inside my ornaments), a devotional/story to read, and then questions to discuss, and things to do. Some of these things are geared for older children, some for younger. You can obviously skip the discussion if you have youngers:-)
Excerpt from Day 1:
"Out of the stump of David's family will grow a shoot - yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root..." Isaiah 11:1
"Once, in the truest story that you have ever heard, His-story, which is really your very own story, there was this family - Jesse's family. A family that was like yours, like a tree with branches of these relatives and those brothers and those sisters - a family that loved each other and hurt each other and forgave each other and failed each other. A family that failed God...
Out of the stump came one tender branch that would grow right into a crown of thorns, right into a rugged cross, right into a ladder..." Ann Voskamp

The questions are sometimes "more" than my kids know - but it's giving us a good chance to share with them - like the discussion point in the pic below - they haven't really noticed anything like that, but we have, even in our own lives, so we can tell them.
Whether you just read the book together, or make it more dynamic with a tree, and ornaments, or go even further and include activities and small treats or gifts, this tradition is one that we won't be without for YEARS to come. It just might be my new favourite part of the holiday! It's the perfect way also, to put a bit of a "curriculum" to advent, as the book starts at creation and traces the family tree of Jesus, from Adam, all the way to the birth of Christ.

If you are looking for a fun and meaningful way to get your kids really in love with the true meaning of Christmas, I highly suggest this! Start collecting things this year on clearance - a tree, a wreath, some advent ornaments if you want, and next year, you'll be all set!

My sister Lauryn is doing it this year too with her kids - I forced her to buy the book ;-) And they are loving it too, so at least two positive reviews so far, haha!!

(I have the document of all the passages typed up if anyone wants it, I can email it!)

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