Welcome to part two, of our Happy Holidays post. I asked some of the wisest, happiest, and most engaging bloggers I know, what they are doing to fill this Christmas season with joy. My hope is that this will be a joy-filled way to celebrate this season with others and be a fun way of discovering new, and creative Christmas ideas for your family. Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas!
Creating Christmas Joy
Our Advent Jesse Tree Tradition
Christmas can easily become a season of greed and disappointment. Enticed by ruthless advertising, kids make wish lists for Santa. Then they long for Christmas morning, hoping their wishes come true. When they don’t get everything they wanted, many kids become ungrateful. Some become envious. Others pout and complain.
My wife Tami and I wanted our kids to appreciate and savor the greatest Christmas gift of all — Jesus.
Several years ago we purchased a little book titled The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to Prepare for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. The book has 25 short readings. Each reading is tied to a Bible story or prophecy that foreshadowed the first advent of Jesus Christ. Each reading includes an adult and a child version. The child version is good to read for the whole family when there are kids under 12 years old.
Beginning on December 1, before the kids go to bed our family gathers each evening in front of our warm fire, near our Christmas tree. This is our usual family worship time. Our Advent Jesse Tree tradition during the Christmas season makes this time extra special. Each evening someone in our family reads the daily reading. There are also Christmas songs and Bible readings for each day.
What makes each reading special for our youngest child is the homemade tree ornament that goes with each reading. He gets to hang it on our Christmas tree.
Our children look forward to the Advent Jesse Tree each year. Each year, they remember the Bible stories and prophecies better than the year before. They remember that Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus, most of all. By this, we know it’s having the positive influence we were looking for.
I decorated my Christmas tree this past weekend, and the first thing to don the branches after the lights are strung is what remains of a set of candy canes I’ve had for more than 25 years – all mottled and sticky and dripping in places from cracked wrappers. But they’re a tradition, so on they go.
My first official listen-all-the-way-through Christmas album of the season is the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, by Vince Guaraldi.
And every Christmas morning, I head over to mom’s house where joined by my sister and her son (my nephew), we all sit and watch him open each of his Christmas gifts – a tradition that has likely become a little awkward for him at this point, since he is now twenty-two.
But of all my traditions come Christmas time, one stands out among them like a shining star. If I had to forego the others in order to keep this one, I’d bid adieu to my sticky college candy canes. I’d pass up the gift-giving at mom’s (as would she). I’d turn off “Christmastime is Here” (and even replace it with “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses from 1981, but please – don’t make me!).
Every year since before I was born, we gather at my grandparents’ little cape home for Christmas Eve. Over the decades, the specifics have changed. A crowd of twenty has become eighty. Traditional Polish fare like gołąbki and kiełbasa has have been replaced with newer dishes. And Grampa has since passed away. But one thing has not changed: Nana, now ninety-one, has always told the Christmas story to the new generation of kids, who will huddle around, sitting cross-legged on the floor in their pajamas.
Last year, despite having had pneumonia and a broken collar bone, Nana still managed to tell her story. Her voice grows a little weaker each year, but she still tells it with every bit the same conviction she’s always had. And while the other adults may not notice it, I still sit cross-legged on that floor every year and listen with the wonder of a child.
This has been a busy year for my family and I. Just when Jenny and I thought relief was in sight–Bam!–life hit again. Yet, in spite of all of our unintentional adventures, life is good. Our family has much to be thankful for. So this year, Jenny and I are intentionally creating pockets of joy.
2015, will not go down in history as our family’s best Christmas ever. In many ways, it is rushed and chaotic. Yet, there are also many amazing moments, that I will long remember. Last weekend, Jenny, Addison, and I attended the San Diego Bay, Parade of Lights. Addison pointed and squealed as brightly colored boats drifted by. She even yelled out, “Merry Christmas,” for the very first time.
This weekend, our family will once again, head out to look at holiday lights. Later on, we’ll read the Christmas story together, and enjoy an extended weekend with Jenny’s family, after they trek from Minnesota and Arizona, to visit for the holidays. We are truly blessed. Although much of our week is hustle-and-bustle, and it doesn’t always feel the way that we think Christmas should, our family is creating intentional pockets of joy. These wonderful moments are making this a truly Merry Christmas!
Continue the Christmas Conversations
So what about you. How is your family building lasting values into others? What single tradition, would you never give up? And how are you and your family intentionally creating pockets of Joy? Please feel free to continue the discussion in the comments below. I look forward to hearing about how you and your family are making this a very Merry Christmas!