Create God-consciousness in your children at Christmas
In his book Parenting, Paul David Tripp tells us that God uses parents as a faithful tool to create two critical things in our children: God-consciousness and God-submission. God-consciousness is the acknowledgment of His existence while God-submission is the surrender to His authority. Paul goes on to state, "Your children have the perverse and life-shaping ability to look at the world around them and not see God. Children who don't acknowledge God will act as if they are God and will resist the help and rescue that God has provided for them... Every day is filled with opportunities to point to God."
Perhaps there is no better opportunity to create this God-consciousness in our children than at the time of year where they are most prone to become me-centered: Christmas. Christmas can quickly become a "me, me, me" holiday if we, as parents, are not intentionally impressing spiritual truths onto their hearts and focusing less on self and more on Christ. But, if Christ is kept as the focal point throughout the hustle and bustle, there are so many ways that Christmas will have a profound impact in their hearts.
One of the ways that my family tries to keep Christ as the focus at Christmastime is a nightly devotional and activity called The Jesse Tree. My family began doing this about four years ago and it quickly became a favorite tradition.
Who is Jesse and what is The Jesse Tree?
Jesse was the father of King David. And, among the many, many prophecies that the birth of Christ fulfilled is one found in Isaiah 11:1-2, 10:
“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 might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord... In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.”
A Jesse Tree is a Christmas tree (we use a kid-sized tree) that is used exclusively for hanging ornaments that retell the Biblical stories that lead up to the birth of Christ. There are a number of Jesse Tree books available that offer 25 devotions each day from December 1st to December 25th. These daily devotions trace the heritage of Jesus through the stories and prophecies of the Old Testament enabling families to engage in a more meaningful celebration of the Christmas season. Each devotional story is paired with a representative symbol that traces the heritage of Jesus such the earth, an apple, stars, an angel, etc. These symbols are represented by ornaments - a new one is hung on the tree each night until all 25 are displayed.
There are a number of ways to do The Jesse Tree - all the way from totally crafting it out with homemade ornaments, to kid-created hand drawn laminated paper ornaments, to the easy method of store-bought ornaments (what I prefer), to a mixture of all three. The store-bought route may take longer to accumulate all the ornaments as you search for the right ones. It also requires a little out-of-the-box thinking. For instance, for Rahab's Scarlet Rope, we use a red braided cord as garland. For the Coat of Many Colors, we use colorful miniature glass balls. I also had to get a little crafty with ornaments such as wheat and baby Isaac. We are still missing a few but it's fun to hunt for them!
While Scripture is read and discussed every night when the ornament is hung, reading a short devotional to go along with it is optional (and based on your children's attention spans, ha!). One of the books that we have is The Advent Jesse Tree which is a short and sweet read but not very visually appealing for wide-eyed imaginations. The second book is Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp which is visually stunning but is long-winded and heavy on the author's interpretation of Scripture. We usually skip the author's writing and concentrate solely on the Scripture and pictures. My children are also at the ripe age where I can ask them questions or discuss ways they can apply the verses to their lives. Or, if you want to purchase a book that includes ornaments, Ann also has a newer interactive book The Wonder of the Greatest Gift: An Interactive Family Celebration of Advent that includes paper ornaments and a three dimensional Christmas tree.
Another (and important) thing we do is repetition, repetition, repetition! Every night, we go over each ornament in order, connecting the events of the Bible into one big story. We talk about the earth that God created represented by the earth ornament. Then we talk about how sin entered the world when Eve bit the apple represented by the apple ornament. Then we talk about how God sent the flood to cleanse the earth and how He saved Noah and his family represented by the Noah's Ark ornament. Then, the promise to Abraham that God would give him descendants as many as the stars in the sky represented by multiple star ornaments...and so forth. We move from ornament to ornament and retell the story, the greatest story, leading all the way up to our greatest gift - Jesus. It's a beautiful time where my children connect visible, tangible objects to the events that lead up to the birth of Christ. And, they love to see if they can remember the correct order. It's also a great learning tool for mom and dad, too!
I hope that you will consider the ways that you can celebrate Christ with you children this Christmas. Whether it's a special tree, a nightly reading of Scripture, baking cookies to take to neighbors...whatever it is, don't forget to tell them the bigger story, the greater story, on why we do these things and WHO we do them for.
The Jesse Tree - 25 Days of Advent
December 1 - Tree/Tree Stump, Isaiah 11:1-2, 10
December 2 - Earth, Genesis 1:1-5, 26-27
December 3 - Apple, Genesis 3:6-9
December 4 - Noah's Ark, Genesis 6:5-8
December 5 - Stars, Genesis 12:1-7
December 6 - Isaac, Genesis 21:1-7
December 7 - Ram, Genesis 22:1-14
December 8 - Ladder, Genesis 28:12-16
December 9 - Coat of Many Colors, Genesis 37:3-4, 50:15-20
December 10 - Ten Commandments, Deut 5
December 11 - Scarlet Rope, Joshua 2:1, 8-18
December 12 - Wheat, Ruth 1:6-9, 16
December 13 - Shepherd's Staff, 1 Sam 16:6-12
December 14 - Candle, Isaiah 9:2, 6-7
December 15 - Fire, 1 Kings 18:18-24
December 16 - Whale, Jonah 1:1-3, 17 2:10, 3:1-3
December 17 - Bethlehem, Micah 5:2-5
December 18 - Crown, Esther 4:10-16
December 19 - Tower, Habakkuk 2:1, 3:17-19
December 20 - Angel, Luke 1:6-8, 11-17
December 21 - John the Baptist, Matthew 3:1-3
December 22 - Mary, Luke 1:28-35, 38
December 23 - Emmanuel, Matthew 1:20-23
December 24 - Nativity, Luke 2:1-7
December 25 - Good News, Luke 2:11-19
For another fun way to create God-consciousness in your children at Christmas, check out Laura's Wisemen tradition - a great alternative to The Elf on the Shelf!
First, I am a child of God. And, like a child, I am always learning and growing. The more I know Him, the more I love Him. Second, I am a wife to a good man. Missions is his thing while teaching women to love God’s Word is mine. Third, I am a mama to three plus a sweet cockapoo who thinks he’s #4. My children are my ongoing sanctification. Fourth, I am a passionate advocate of all things healthy & natural, an even 50/50 split of introvert/extrovert, and a dreamer/designer. Old friends call me Becky, newer ones call me Rebecca, and the most intimate ones call me Beck. You can just call me friend.