I love seeing Christmas trees twinkling from front windows and Christmas lights strung up in yards. I love Christmas shopping and Christmas parties and trimming the tree with my family. I also love Christmas movies and Christmas music. Taking the kids to see Santa and wrapping presents just brings me plain joyt.
As a kid, these things pretty much summed up Christmas for me. Of course, we attended our church’s Christmas Eve service (BORING.). My mom would read the King James Version of the birth of Jesus at home afterward (BORING-ER). As a kid, Christmas was all about PRESENTS. And SANTA CLAUS. And PRESENTS.
But now that I’m an adult, Christmas is, at its core, has become what it should have been all along: a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. I don’t know what you think about when you hear the name ‘Jesus,’ but I think of a man who has pretty much rocked my world. I only wish I’d known the Jesus I know now when I was a child. I wish I’d seen him as the fulfillment of a promise that stretched back thousands of years. I wish I had seen him as a real, living, breathing man with amazing lessons to teach that would change my life, rather than a picture on the cover of my Youth Bible of a wimpy-looking guy in a dress, surrounded by children.
There are a few gifts I want to give my children above anything else. A knowledge of Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Two years ago, I made a valiant effort to start the Jesse Tree tradition with my kids, thanks to Shannon’s careful instructions at Rocks in My Dryer. Essentially, the Jesse Tree is a small tree that represents Christ’s family tree. Starting December 1st, we read a story from the Old Testament leading up to Christ’s birth each night. Then a corresponding ornament is placed on the tree. I had bought a small Christmas tree for the kids’ room and we got off to a good start the first few nights, but then our entire house was struck down by Swine Flu– and that was the end of the Jesse Tree. We were so sick, in fact, that we barely managed to even get gifts under the tree in time for Christmas. Last year, we tried again. It was a success! And this year, it has become an established tradition- one the kids ask for each and every night.
My seven-year-old is LOVING IT. She’s loving it so much, in fact, that we’ve ended up reading extra stories each night because she always wants to know what’s happened in between the Jesse Tree stories.
My daughter and I made most of the ornaments together, and we kept them very, very simple. That way, I don’t get stressed out about it. We’ve also started another tradition-one I saw on a blog a few years ago. To do it, I bought a life-sized nativity manger and some craft store raffia, which I cut into straw. Every week or so, my family draws names of from a jar containing slips with the names of all of our family members. All week long, we secretly do good deeds for our chosen family member, and each time we do it, we put a little bit of straw in the manger.
On Christmas Eve, the manger should be completely lined with straw (and LOTS of good deeds) and ready for baby Jesus. My entire family is really into this tradition, right down to my four-year-old! But I’ll be honest. I think I’m getting more out of these two new traditions than anyone else. They’ve both served to keep me focused on what Christmas is all about.
Not only am I loving reading the Bible stories each night, but the fact is also, right now, I need them. It’s having a huge impact on me to see over and over again that God almost always chooses the most unlikely people to make history and lead his people. I often struggle with tremendous feelings of unworthiness when it comes to being a Christian. I look around at other Christians and feel like I could never even hope to be like them or be accepted by them. I look in the Bible, though, and read about people who make me feel that anything’s possible. I want my children to learn to do the same (preferably at the age of three rather than 36!). This is our Christmas.