Keep Christ in Christmas

by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

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.

Advent Calendar:
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.

Advent Wreath:
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.

Jesse Tree:
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 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."

The following table indicates the people, symbols, and scripture represented on the Jesse Tree:

Person Symbol Scripture Passage
Adam Male Figure Genesis 2:7
Eve Female Figure Genesis 2:21-23
Noah Rainbow Genesis 9:11-17
Abraham Tree Genesis 18:1
Sarah Tent Genesis 18:9-14
Isaac Ram Genesis 22:13-14
Rebekah Camel Genesis 24:63-67
Jacob Ladder Genesis 28:10-17
Rachel Shepherd's Crook Genesis 29:9-12
Joseph Colorful Coat Genesis 37:3
Moses Burning Bush Exodus 3:1-6
Miriam Music Notes Exodus 15:20-21
Deborah Palm Tree Judges 4:4-5
Samuel Lamp 1 Samuel 3:1-3
Ruth Straw Ruth 2:1-9
Jesse Branch Isaiah 11:1
David Harp 1 Samuel 16:17-18
Solomon Columns 1 Kings 5:2-5
Hezekiah Tablets of the Law 2 Kings 18:1-6
Josiah Book 2 Kings 23:1-3
Isaiah Throne Isaiah 6:1
Elizabeth Dove Luke 1:39-45
John the Baptist River Matthew 3:1-6
Mary Angel Luke 1:26-35
Jesus Manger Luke 2:1-7

Sources: (This site also has Jesse tree ornaments available for download)
About the Author:
Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur is editor of Spiritual Woman Newsletter and author of Letters to Mary from a Young Mother.
© Spiritual Woman Press, 2004, 2005. All rights reserved.