On it sits our Jesse Tree. Our family is using Ann Voskamp's free Jesse Tree Advent Celebration for a second year. (In fact, I had never even heard of a Jesse Tree until last November.) Each evening we warm up a pot of hot chocolate, light the candles, sit in front of the fireplace and listen to the day's reading. The ornaments (which were hand drawn by our oldest in imitation of Ann's and then embroidered on felt by me) are hung. We simply snagged a fallen branch from the backyard and placed it in a vase filled with cranberries
Another way we count down the days in December is through our Advent calendar hung on the dining room wall. Each paper cone is stamped with the day and filled with fun craft activities, ways to serve friends, family, and the community, as well as a devotional reading for the morning. This reading coordinates with our evening reading in a way I find compelling and relevant.
Two points I want to make about Advent Calendars, seeing as they are SO popular at the moment.
1. I don't pre-stuff my cones at the beginning of the month. Instead, I determine the night before what would best serve our family the following day. There is a list of ideas to refer to as well as a schedule of what is happening in the community. 2. Keep it simple. If all you want to do is watch Charlie Brown Christmas at night with a bowl of popcorn, that is great! The point is to spend time as a family and foster a joyful atmosphere with purpose.
The Playmobil Nativity Set is in constant use. The girlie calls it "playing Jesus".
Christmas morning is for reading from Luke and digging through stockings. French toast casserole is baked and devoured. Presents from far-away family are opened. The gifts we carefully picked out or made are finally revealed and enjoyed.
One of our favorite gifts to give and receive come from the Samaritans's Purse Christmad Gift Catalog. The littles pick out gifts for their siblings and extended family. We choose a special Mama & Papi gift for each of them.
I would also like to put in a plug for the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. We gave this to our children last Christmas and it has completely brought home the idea to our entire family (not just the littles!) that the entire Bible points to Christ. That every story "whispers His name" indeed. This season of Advent is just another way for us to remember that Creation has always been waiting for our Savior.
Lastly, I'd like to speak for both Ruth and I that the intent behind this post - all of these posts - is not to compare your own traditions and celebrations with others. Advent looks different for everyone and in no way did our family take on all of these in one year. If you are inspired by what you read during this series, take time to decide and get ready for next year. Don't feel the need to rush and live up to someone else's plans. Prepare your family in a way that opens hearts and home to Him.
We are waiting. He is coming!