I occasionally mentioned how our family incorporates some of the practical traditions shared. Today I wanted to go into a little more detail as to how our family celebrates with a Christmas Tree.
As I mentioned in the series, no family’s traditions are exactly the same. In fact, most of the traditions I shared with you are not ones that we personally use and among the ones that we douse, some we have tweaked or recreated to fit our personal needs and desires. That is the point of family traditions right? They are your family’s traditions!
I am going to share with you the way my husband and I combined the Christian “Jesse Tree” tradition with our the traditional “Christmas Tree” tradition to provide a beautiful and unique way to worship the Christ of Christmas.
Our Tree’s Backstory
Three years ago we decided to assess our Christmas tree. I’m sure it had something to do with me reading “Treasuring God in Our Traditions” by Noel Piper. In the book she explains that there never was a Christmas tree in their home. They didn’t really see a point since it had nothing to do with the incarnation. Rather than simply accepting cultural norms, they decided to only include traditions that truly pointed to the Christ and encouraged meditation on the Savior. My head started reeling the first time I read this. No Christmas tree?
My mother’s Christmas tree is a paradigm of Christmas trees. It is always very large, perfectly adorned by bows, ribbons, lights, and beads. The ornaments that decorate its fragrant branches range from porcelain ballerinas to fantastical glass blow fish.
Picking out the perfect tree every year growing up was a family affair (a battle that my brother somehow always won) and decorating the tree was a major event, one that my mother always seemed to make special. I loved our tree. I am still utterly enchanted when I walk into my parent’s home and take in the beautiful job she has done each year.
Would our home not have that same tradition? Would our children not walk through isles of trees searching for the perfect one to adorn our family room? This was something I would have to think and pray about.
As I researched more and more traditions that were specifically Christ-centered I came across the Jesse tree tradition. I loved the way it encouraged us to celebrate redemptive history, the way it caused us to think about the waiting that God’s people experienced as he fulfilled his promise of salvation. As I began to consider implementing it in our Christmas celebration I couldn’t help but feel that having a little tree (or even a branch as some use) that focused on the Savior and a very large, mostly arbitrary (beautifully arbitrary mind you!) Christmas tree during the celebration of Christ’s incarnation was a little lopsided.
Since we were already reassessing our Christmas tree to begin with, we decided to give the tradition an overhaul and meld the two trees together into one Christ-centered tree that would spur us on to love the Savior more every time we decorated it. And so our Christmas tree was born.
Our Christmas Tree Tradition
[box]“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And 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 the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.” (Isaiah 11:1-5 ESV)
“O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit.” (Hoseah 14:8 ESV)
We begin decorating our tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That night as Richard brings it in and sets it up, I prepare the hot chocolate and treats. We start in the same way most do by stringing lights around the tree; a beautiful reminder of Christ’s illuminating character and sinless life (the more lights the better!).
Once the lights are strung, we begin putting our ornaments on. One by one we adorn our tree with simple, beautiful ball ornaments that display the names of Christ. On each ornament I have written one of the ways the Bible refers to the Messiah as well as the scripture references. As we hang each name we say it out loud reminding each other of the many attributes of Christ. As our children get older and the tradition can last longer, we hope to take time to read several of the references associated with the names.
Next we hang cross ornaments to remind us of the reason Christ was born as a baby in the flesh of men. This is a collection we have just begun and look forward to adding to. I love to see the crosses amongst the various names of Christ as well as amongst our advent ornaments as it reminds me that every event in Biblical history points to the Savior.
Once all of our ornaments are hung, we add red ribbon that cascades down our tree reminding us of the precious blood that was shed for our forgiveness.
And of course, the last thing to be added is the star, reminiscent of “his star” which the wise men followed to find the Christ-child.
The next day is Sunday, the first day of Advent. This is when we begin adding our “Jesse Tree” ornaments. These ornaments trace through the course of redemptive history beginning with Creation and ending at the coming of the Messiah. I made ornaments for each event by downloading images of paintings off of the internet and then Mod Podging them into picture frame ornaments. Each night leading up to Christmas we add one ornament to the tree and read the corresponding account in the Bible. This wonderful tradition is helpful not only for the children, but for us as well. Together we remember (and our children learn) the need we, as a fallen race, had for a Savior. Through learning the anticipation of God’s people, we too build anticipation for Christmas day when we celebrate the Messiah’s coming.
As the advent ornaments continue to be added to our tree, a wonderful story of God’s interaction with his people begins to unfold. All the while this incredible story is nestled in among reminders of the Savior, to whom it all belongs.
I love our tree.
I love that it has a purpose and that every time I look at it I am stirred to think on the amazing truths of salvation. When I look at it I think of my Savior.
Our prayer is that God would use this tradition in our children’s lives to not only teach them the story of salvation, but captivate their little hearts with the joy we have in God’s goodness to his people.