Two weeks ago, we spent the majority of the week hiding out at home from all the germs. We did all we could to boost our immune systems (rest, fresh fruit and veggie juices, vitamins, etc.), and we all got well just in time for thanksgiving! (Now that's something to be thankful for!) I know that our bodies were just telling us we were pushing ourselves too hard and we needed to slow down. Lesson learned.
We had a great Thanksgving, and I hope you all did, too. We met up with both sides of the family at a nearby state park for some great outdoor time. Lots to be thankful for this year.
Now, we are plowing headfirst into a big move. Not far, just up the street. Our landlady has decided she would like to move back into this house, and we think it's the best decision for her and her family, so we're happy to oblige. We have had the best "landfamily" ever, and we'll miss having them, but since we are not moving far, I know we'll stay in touch. (I say "landfamily" because our landlady's daughter and her family live right next door, and they have all taken such good care of us. Who else can say their landfamily came over to make soup and take care of the kids when everyone was sick?)
So, a week and a half from now, we will be moving yet again. We are excited about the location, as it's very near a park and closer to Dennis's work.
Of course, in the midst of it all, we want to take the time to reflect on the birth of Christ. Every year, I find myself facing the same struggle - how to somehow take the focus off of all that busyness and "stuff" and make it what it really should be about Jen Hatmaker said it even better here. I wrote about this topic last year in this post and this post. I've found two traditions that I want to make a central focus for our family this Christmas - The Jesse Tree and Advent.
|The oldest complete "Tree of Jesse" in France|
|What ours will look like. Photo Credit.|
The year Izzy was born, I discovered a new (to me) idea called a "Jesse Tree." Here is a link to describe that in more detail. To sum it up, you do a devotional each day as a family and hang a decoration with a symbol that represents that day's scripture reading. The stories correspond to the lineage of Christ (his family tree, which includes Jesse - hence the name Jesse tree) You can create your own devotions and ornaments, or you can order some ready made. There are also plenty of guides online. Author Ann Voskamp has written a free devotional that comes with printouts that you can supposedly download online, but I can't seem to get it to work. (Let me know if it works for you! I love Ann Voskamp.)
We already have a small Christmas tree, about 2 1/2 feet tall, so we're going to use that as our Jesse tree. I found this book at a local Christian book store, it comes with pages you can copy to use as ornaments as well as a guide for the nightly Bible story reading. We are going to use this Bible for the stories, as it is easy to understand for a toddler like Izzy. I also really like this devotion book, especially because it is written by a resident of Hattiesburg, MS, the town I called home for 4 years. Each day contains 2 devotions - one for adults and one for children. It is a little advanced for Izzy, so we may wait until next year for that one.
I suppose that having a Jesse Tree is really a tradition that helps you celebrate advent, which I'll explain for a minute now.
Growing up, my Church always did an advent wreath with readings each Sunday during the month of December. Somehow, I kind of missed the heart of it and just this week discovered what advent really means - it is a time to reflect on waiting. Waiting to celebrate Christ's birth and waiting for his return. From what I understand, it is often considered a Catholic tradition, but it is celebrated by many protestants, as well. (My Baptist church did it.) There is traditionally an advent wreath with candles that are lit each week to symbolize different things we focus on as we wait to celebrate Christ's birth on December 25th. There are many great resources to learn more about advent, as well as devotional books and calendars to help us celebrate and meditate on the meaning of the season.
Here are some great resources I've found to help me learn more about practicing advent:
Explanation of Advent (This explains the four candles, as well as why they are traditionally pink and purple, as shown in the photo below.)
Free online advent devotional guide
Devotional by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (This is an Amazon link to the book.) You can't go wrong with D.B. Check out his biography and be inspired. It's on Netflix.
The book I mentioned above for the Jesse Tree is really all about advent, so it is useful for both traditions.
We are going to use this devotional as a guide for family devotions when we light the wreath.
Next year, I want to do an advent calendar, like Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents talks about here.
Since I'm new to all this, I may be missing some important information or misrepresenting something. Does your family celebrate advent or have a special tradition that helps make Christ central to the Christmas season for your family?