One of our family values is legacy-leaving a legacy.Â Since we have a rich legacy on both sides of our family, we want to pass that on to our boys.Â One of the ways we want to do that is by establishing traditions. Tradition defined by Webster’s New World dictionary as, “the handing down orally of stories, beliefs, customs, etc. from generation to generation” and “a long-established custom or practice that has the effect of an unwritten law.”
I can’t say that word “Tradition!” without thinking of the musical, “Fiddler on the Roof”.Â Traditions are often thought of in negative terms-things that keep us from moving on to things that are new or things with more personal meaning.Â But traditions are also powerful ways of reinforcing meaningful and purposeful values and beliefs.
As we approach Christmas and contemplate the first advent of our Savior, we can all struggle with the desire to keep first things first in our celebration, while at the same time being pulled in many different directions with activities that just add to already busy lives.Â Meaningful traditions can help us and our families maintain a proper perspective.
For our family, “tradition” or “making memories” as we often refer to them, are a key part not only of helping us keep a proper perspective but are means to teach our boys what we believe in a positive and proactive manor.
While we have many traditions one of our longest held traditions (for most of the past 10 years) occurs during December.Â It’s called an Advent Jesse Tree
Starting on December 1 and leading up all the way to December 25 we have a special Bible reading and symbol that reminds us of what God went through to provide us with a Savior.
The idea behind a “Advent Jesse Tree” has been around for quite a while, there are a number of books that describe the making and content, and there are a number more that provide readings and devotions (see below for a resource list).
But the basic concept behind the Jesse Tree, and the reason we like it so much, is to explain the elements leading up to the coming of Jesus.Â As Dean Meador Lambert states in her book, “the Advent Jesse Tree seeks to tell the story of God’s redemption plan for the world through 25 symbols form the Old and New Testament.Â The symbols trace the heritage of Jesus from the beginning of creation.”
In our case, about 10 years ago Mary Anne made a quilt (about 3 feet by 4 feet) with a Jesse Tree, which has 25 buttons sewn on it.Â You don’t have to have a quilt; you can use a small Christmas tree.Â For each of the 25 days we have a symbol which Mary Anne and a friend made.Â The symbols can be simple (made by the children themselves), homemade, or purchased, whatever fits your family best.Â Our symbols fit neatly in a shoe box.Â For each day we have a couple of passages of Scripture to read and then a summary taken from the book, Let’s Make a Jesse Tree!Â by Darcy James, and one of the boys takes a turn (they remember whose turn it is!) hanging the symbol.Â As the boys grew they participated more and more.Â As they learned to read, they read the short summary or the Bible passage, which gave them more ownership and a real joy.
During December our quilt hung on the wall of our family room or as we moved (twice) to a prominent place in our house, where we could both review the story of redemption and anticipate the approach of Christmas.
Mary Anne has made a second quilt and set of ornaments so that when the boys leave the house, they will each have a Jesse Tree to continue the tradition-hopefully leaving a godly legacy.
While this tradition has been hard to maintain as the boys reach high school and have more scheduled evening activities-it will continue to be a meaningful-as we remember the memories we have made.Â And even more important-as we seek to keep Christ central in our celebration.
Jesse Tree Books (Each follows the same basic idea, but uses different Bible passages and symbols.)
Darcy James, Let’s Make a Jesse Tree!Â (Nashville: Abington Press 1987) Contains simple “how-to” instructions.
Dean Meador Lambert, The Advent Jesse Tree, (Nashville: Abington Press 1988) Has two sets of devotionals, one for children and one for adults.
Raymond and Georgene Anderson, The Jesse Tree, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1966) Includes questions that can be asked after the reading.
M. Breckenridge, Jesse Tree Devotions.Â (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985)