The Advent Tree is something we added to our family traditions when Noah was finally old enough to participate more fully. I originally got the idea from the old tradition of the ”Jesse Tree,” but we call ours an Advent Tree and focus more specifically on the Incarnation and birth narratives as well as waiting and watching for Jesus’ Return (which is a bit different from the way the Jesse Tree devotionals are laid out – either is great, the above is just our preference).
Every year, we set up a little tree in our dining room that we call the “Advent Tree.” We set it up at the same time as our regular Christmas tree and turn on the lights after our Matthew 25 devotional (usually before Advent starts). Then starting on the first Sunday of Advent, which is the first night of the Advent Wreath too, we have daily devotions as a family (ours are in the evenings). At the end of that time together, Noah (and when Ephraim gets to be old enough to participate, we will divide them up between both boys) gets to put a new ornament on the Advent Tree that somehow symbolizes what we have just read in the Word. Sometimes it’s a stretch, but you just have to be creative. You can make homemade ornaments as another great DIY Advent project, which can be a very good hands on way to reinforce the heart of Jesus during Christmas and Advent for kids, or use ornaments you already have that will work, and/or you can purchase ornaments. We do a little of all three. For any that are store-bought, we try to add just a few ornaments that are new or just better each year (rather than making a big purchase up front). (A good time to shop for them as right before Christmas or right after – for next year).
We also have an Advent Calendar that hangs on our refrigerator. We have several of these that were handed down from Stephen’s family, and we have one or two that we bought. You can find these at christianbook.com and depending what you get, they are relatively inexpensive. If you are a Pinterest follower or just really creative yourself, there are lots of great DIY Advent calendar ideas out there as well.
Every morning, Noah opens the appropriate “window” on the Advent calendar, and we read the verse together. The verses are very short, so it’s a great tool for memorizing and talking specifically about different events surrounding the birth of Christ each day.
For our evening times of devotion as a family, we basically combine the themes or verses from our Calendar, our daily Bible Reading (mine and Stephen’s), and the Wreath wherever and however we can. I am including the verses we are using for our evening devo times this year, some suggestions that could be used for ornaments, and the general theme for the devo on the chart below. If it doesn’t show up in your browser, I’ve also included a pdf file that you can click on. Sorry if it looks a bit weird on phones or tablets (suggest looking at the pdf instead if you are using an iPhone, etc). If you decide to do an Advent or Jesse Tree with your family, you are more than welcome to use all or parts of what we are doing and make it your own. Enjoy!
Advent Bible Reading 2011 (click to view pdf version)
Advent Tree 2011 (click to view pdf version)