"Gospel-Centered Shepherding" (Blog)
For the Carter household, Christmas signifies oodles of treats and memories with family and friends, but one important tradition we have established as a family – and one we look forward to each year – is our Advent family devotions. Advent derives from the latin word Adventus which means “coming”; our family makes an intentional effort to celebrate together the “coming” of the Christ child into our world at Bethlehem for the entirety of the Advent season.
It’s not too soon to begin planning for family devotions for Advent (which begins Dec. 3rd this year). Here are some resources our family would like to share with yours:
The Jesse Tree. The Jesse tree is an old Christmas tradition dating back to Medieval times to tell the story from creation to the Christmas story of Jesus. Jesse was the father of King David, and Jesus descended from this Great Royal Descendent. The prophet Isaiah wrote:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him-- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:1-2)
Just as a branch is a new sign of life on a tree, so the birth of Jesus dawned a new day for his genealogical tree that would impact the whole of humankind.
The Jesse Tree resources:
· The Wonder of the Greatest Gift: An Interactive Family Celebration of Advent (by Ann Voskamp) will guide you into easy but meaningful family devotions.
· Or you can download many free printables (see http://www.blessedbeyondadoubt.com/what-is-a-jesse-tree/) for the ornaments or even make your own ornaments out of felt, fabric, and paper.
In addition to celebrating the Jesse Tree together (which only takes a few minutes), reading together a fictional Advent story soaked with Christian principles has been a good way for our family to bond together. This series has been a hit for our boys:
· Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent
· Bartholomew's Passage: A Family Story for Advent
· Tabitha's Travels: A Family Story for Advent
Christmas Books for the Children:
A family might also consider setting up a basket of Christian books for the kids. Or, perhaps you might give several Christmas books to your children during the Advent season in an “Advent Book Countdown”. Here are some good titles:
· Jacob's Gift by Max Lucado
· The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
· The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs
· The Legend of the Christmas Tree by Rick Osborne
· Humphrey's First Christmas by Carol Heyer
· The Legend of the Christmas Stocking by Rick Osborne
· The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg
· The Shepherd's Treasure (https://www.theshepherdstreasure.com/) is an advent activity to learn the meaning of Christmas in a fun way, a Christ-centered alternative to the elf on the shelf concept.
· The Advent Wreath is another great tradition. There are many ideas about how to make a modern Advent wreath and devotions to coincide with the wreath. (You can find them on amazon, pinterest, etc.)
o A beautiful Advent Wreath to purchase is Ann Voskamp’s “Cradle to Cross” Wreath which can be purchased at https://joywares.ca/. The website also has “Jesse Tree” ornaments.
Advent Readings for Adults
· The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent (John Piper)
· The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas (Ann Voskamp)