The past two years, our family has enjoyed creating an Advent Tree (also called a Jesse Tree) to count down to Christmas. Actually, the first year we did a tree, sort of. We never could get our tree to stand up correctly, and then we fell really behind with making the ornaments! Last year, I was 8 months pregnant and needed something simple, and so we did advent books instead of the tree. The books worked really well, and we finished many more of the lessons than the year before!
This year, I wanted to do something different. I was looking for something visual for Owen (age 3) and for a way to demonstrate the chronology of the lessons. The thing that I like about Advent Tree (or Jesse Tree) devotions is the chance to study the big picture of the Bible all in one month – creation, Adam and Eve’s sin, the promise of One who would defeat sin, the patriarchs, the prophecies, and the birth of the long-awaited Savior! I wanted to keep the story in chronological order, and I also wanted a way for the boys (especially Owen because of his age) to see how many days were left until Christmas.
This is what I came up with:
I drew the tree on a piece of foam board. That was a lot of coloring, let me tell you! Oh well, it was a relaxing project after a long day with the boys. Each day, we will glue on a paper circle with the Advent Tree symbol for that day. We are using the Advent Tree devotions in Disciplines of a Godly Family by Kent and Barbara Hughes, but there are also many printable versions out there. I haven’t looked into any because I have the Hughes’ book, so if you have a printable option to recommend, please leave a comment!
Update Dec. 2013: I have written my own Advent Tree devotions and they are available for download here. There were some things that I wanted to change and do differently from the devotions we had been using, so I finally buckled down and made my own!
I decided to arrange the numbers so that we would be filling the tree from bottom to top because it seemed like a fun idea to end with the final circle on the top of the tree!
Today we did our first Advent Tree lesson. We learned that God created the world by saying “Let there be light,” and that Jesus came as the Light of the World (John 1:1-4).
Aidan drew our picture for the day – sun with rays of light.
Advent – A Season of Anticipation
I love celebrating advent. As Christians, we are celebrating so much more than the coming of presents – we are celebrating the ultimate gift of God in the flesh to take away our sins and make us children of God! As I have thought about celebrating advent with children, however, I have decided that I don’t want them to think that have to choose between celebrating Jesus and being excited about presents. Of course they’re going to be excited about presents! What child wouldn’t be? I think that telling kids that the presents are fun, but that Jesus is the “real reason we celebrate Christmas” is not necessarily helpful. It’s an issue of balance, I think. We celebrate Christmas because we are remembering God’s gift to us in Christ. I want my children to understand how that gift far surpasses anything that could be under our tree! And yet, the joy of selecting gifts and giving to others is a blessing from God. Receiving gifts is a blessing as well, if we remember to be grateful! Today I told them, “It’s exciting to think about Christmas coming, isn’t it? Just as we are excited about Christmas, the people before the time of Christ were anticipating the coming of the Messiah. And we can be excited because Jesus has promised to come again!”
How are you celebrating Advent with your children? Do you have any Jesse Tree devotions to recommend?