My favorite time of the year is quickly approaching, and one glance at the wish lists on my twin 4th graders’ iPads confirms indeed, Christmas is near. One might wonder if the greatest gift in their mind is the latest Shopkins or Marvel creation. Although they are clear about the reason for the season, it’s moments like this that keep me humbly searching for more organic ways to make connections for our family between the Spirit and presents under the tree.
So, if you’re with us, maybe it’s time to slow down, turn off the bright lights of commercial shopping, and get back to basics. This next year I want to be further removed from the hustle and bustle so that we can immerse ourselves in a deeper way. So many of us are seeking to put Him even more front and center and really help our kids do the same. It seems simple, but sometimes making this connection can be a challenge for children. It can be especially difficult for children with special needs.
A short time ago, this was the topic of a brief conversation with my thoughtful friend, Pamela. I always anticipate her ideas and creative implementation regarding nearly any subject. She excitedly passed on her love of the Jesse Tree Advent. In natural homeschool mom fashion, I was online searching within seconds, and it led me to Ann Voskamp’s book Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. The reviews gave me chills; I knew this was exactly what we needed. By taking a day-by-day approach and including hands-on activities, this could be a beautiful experience for all different kinds of learners. (She even offers an audio version.)
We are so excited to start a new family tradition that expands on the ancient Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree with 25 daily stories and ornaments to take you from Adam to Jesus in a magical way. We can read the daily devotions from Ann’s gorgeous, engaging story book and make it our own with the accessible ornaments on our very own Jesse Tree. I am looking forward to Christmas Day when they can look at their handcrafted ornaments and retell the story of the lineage of Christ and critical events that led up to the birth of our Greatest Gift.
What better way to explain our relevance than through Him? In fact, Ann states, “Because if we want our Christmas tree to really stand full of wonder and real meaning? The tree we need to understand and be astonished by — is the wonder of the family tree of Jesus! Because this is your family’s real family tree, your real story.” The ultimate gift of love was given to us so that we might share it. Excite your children and family about the greatest gifts of the season. Silence the hustle and bustle and settle in with some new family traditions to help you focus on this special time of year.
In the heart of our homeschool, this is what I want every day, not just at Christmas. So we’ll keep looking for all the best ways to make those connections real and make them grow as strong as the root of Jesse. They are small now, but every day we are nurturing these little saplings so that they might grow to produce big strong branches for His glory.
Because that friendly suggestion was so great, I decided to ask my friend and veteran homeschool mom, Christi, for few of her favorite ways to share the love and true meaning of Christmas with her family:
- Adopt a family (provide a family in need with food, gifts, coats, etc.)
- Volunteer at a food pantry and distribute food to those in need
- Read Jotham’s Journey around the Advent Wreath
- Have Dad read bedtime stories each night (a book that is centered on the message of Giving and the Spirit of Christmas)
- Have an unbreakable nativity set for little ones to work with to act out the birth of Jesus
- Make birthday cards with special notes for Jesus (lay them at the manger on Christmas Eve)
- Bake a birthday cake for Jesus and serve it for dessert on Christmas Day. Sing Happy Birthday. It really gives little ones a connection as to whose birthday it is and why we are celebrating
- Only let the kids ask for three things for Christmas (that’s how many gifts Jesus received)
- Find a living nativity
- Make gifts of love. Teach them to put hard work into handmade gifts instead of purchasing them. Even if they are simple, there’s nothing quite like knowing someone dedicated their precious time in creating a one-of-a-kind gift just for you
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Charity Klicka.