Here are some traditions you may want to incorporate into your family or practice on your own as a means of keeping the focus of Christmas on the birth of Christ.
An advent calendar is a way of marking the days until Christmas. There are many commercially made which often have small doors to be opened each night of December 1 – 24 revealing a message or part of a picture. An inexpensive variation on this would be to have a picture of the nativity (a religious calendar picture or large Christmas card could work), cut it up into 24 puzzle pieces and put one piece on the puzzle each day.
An advent wreath is a simple circle of greens with four candles – three purple and one pink. One candle is lit the first week of advent, two the second, three the third, and all four the final week. The purple candles represent our need for self-examination and reconciliation with God as we prepare for Christmas. The pink candle is lighted the third week of advent and represents the joy of Christmas. There may also be a large white candle in the middle of the wreath which is lighted Christmas Eve and Christmas day and represents Christ coming into the world. A simple advent wreath lighting service might contain a reading from Scripture or a Christmas hymn.
A Jesse Tree is a tree which is decorated with 25 symbols of Jesus’ family tree. These ornaments may be made out of cloth, paper or wood. Each day of December, one ornament is hung on the tree. The website www.Jesse-Tree.com reminds us that contrary to popular culture, Christmas is not about family and friends and gift-giving, Christmas is about the birth of God’s son. “If your family and friends are not around, or if you have no family or friends, CHRISTMAS STILL IS.” We are encouraged to look back at the reasons why it was so important for Jesus to come into the world. “The idea of the Jesse Tree comes from Isaiah 11:1-9, where God promises a discouraged nation that the glory they remember from David’s time will come again. [Jesse was King David’s father.] They will have another king from Jesse’s family, in whose reign the whole earth will know God. As a Christian, we see that promise fulfilled in Jesus, and so we use the Jesse Tree and decorate it with reminders of how God prepared the world for that kingdom.”
You can learn more about the Jesse Tree at the following sites: