25 December 2013

Countdown to Christmas 2013

When I was a little girl all of our families’ Christians friends celebrated Christmas. It was appropriate and a welcome saying to say, “Have a Merry Christmas!” Now days it is different. I’m almost hesitant to invite friends to my home after the first weekend of December, or share pictures of activities of my home on Facebook. Afraid that my friends see the Christmas tree and lights, or learn that we make Christmas crackers, a Gingerbread house and share presents on Christmas day and get offended. 

The truth is, our family are committed Bible believing Christians who joyfully celebrate Christmas with a Christmas tree and lights, a ginger bread house and delicious meals; the nativity scene and presents, with the sole purpose of celebrating the entering of our Saviour into this world -  be it  the right date or not.

In our home celebrating birthdays are big! We celebrate birthdays for at least two days - the day of the birthday and another day of celebration over the weekend. It is thus just normal practise for us to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, our Saviour.  The children seldom refer to Christmas, rather Jesus’ birthday.  

Over the past few years I learned about Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree on her blog, A Holy Experience, but in all the buzz of December never came to make a Jesse Tree.  This year I got The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp and the Lord powerfully spoke into my life.  

“In the Greatest Gift, Ann Voskamp invites you to celebrate the lineage and majesty of God’s greatest gift to us - His Son, Jesus Christ - through the timeless Advent tradition of the Jesse Tree.Beginning with Jesse, the father of David, The Greatest Gift retraces the epic pageantry of humankind from Adam to the Messiah, with each devotional reading, prayer and reflection leading you one glorious day at a time toward the magnificent promise of Christ.Beautifully designed and exquisitely written, The Greatest Gift is a treasured reminder that it is Christ and Christ alone who endows Christmas with meaning.”

The past year was a difficult year. Quite a few changes in my daily life responsibilities, becoming more involved in my husband’s business, my older children (and helpers) becoming more involved in their talents, gifts and interests, taking them out of the home more often. As a result I experienced major tests of faith, holding on to the promises and truths of Christ, my only life-line. 

So this year I planned well in advance to do the Jesse Tree with my Children! I want them to experience day by day the fulfilling of promises in the birth of Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. I don’t want my children to only see the Baby in the Manger on Christmas day.  

I want them to see the whole picture of the Baby, growing up to be the One who sacrifice His life on the Cross for sinners like us, reconciling us with God our Father.  That is exactly what is accomplished with the Jesse tree. 

While I was preparing, downloading ornaments and being in praying anticipation for what the Lord is going to do in my families’ lives, I learned one of my friends got permission from Ann Voskamp, to translate the Jesse Tree in Afrikaans! Wow, what a blessing!  How often I feel we miss out, being an Afrikaans speaking family, with everything available in English. Now the Jesse Tree was translated and available as the “Boom van Isai”. 

By the end of November my Jesse Tree ornaments were printed, laminated and ready. There are two sets of Jesse Tree ornaments available . One from the Jesse Tree devotional - colourful aimed for children, and the Greatest Gift ornaments - classic and timeless. 

Since I was a little girl we had a colourful Christmas tree, and the children have the privilege to decorate it. I got our Christmas tree when CJ was 3years old and Heidi-Mari a baby girl. Each year I allow them to decorate it to their heart’s desire. This year I wanted a real festive atmosphere in the home, with more colour and lights. I saw the opportunity to decorate our Jetmaster fireplace with holly, and Heidi-Mari and I decided to decorate it in a more classic way with red and gold decorations and white lights. We had quite a laugh when the sales person at the Christmas decorating shop’s eyes widened with concern that I want to wrap our fireplace with Christmas decorations. We took the time to remind him it is high summer in South Africa, we do not lite the fireplace during December/January and he relaxed!  

"The Jesse Tree may take on a number of wondrous forms: a silhouette of a tree may be sewn or painted, cut out of felt, quilted, hung from the fridge, a wall, a door, a window. Or it can be a small evergreen tree, a cluster of red dogwood branches, a pot of hemlock, pine, spruce, sticks or holly.  The  27 ornaments may be printed out onto card stock, cut and laminated and strung up, or the ornaments taped , fastened or buttoned  onto your tree."

After we set up the Christmas tree and decorated the Jetmater, I just knew our Jesse tree ornaments, laminated and stringed, need to hang on the holly of the Jetmaster. For this reason we chose the more classic Greatest gift ornaments, to fit the red, gold and white decorations. 

Then despite all my preparations and anticipation, we almost missed the Jesse Tree again.   We should have started on Friday the 29th of November, but it was weekend, filled with activities, packing Above Rubies and restless little children who missed their afternoon naps. On Monday evening I was ready and the little ones who saw all the preparation for the Jesse tree were filled with excitement and anticipation.  That evening after a delicious dinner, while we were still sitting around the table, we started the first day of Advent. 

What a blessing to share the Word of God around the Family Meal Table. 

"The table is more than a place to eat a hurried meal on the run. The table is a feeding place. A place to minister to our loved one’s physical needs and yes, this means preparing and cooking a meal, which means work! Feeding and nourishing our family is a huge part of mothering. But the table is more than a place to feed hungry tummies, it is a place to feed the soul and mind, synonymous with intimate communion and fellowship. It is the heart and soul of family life; it is a sanctuary, a secret place from the daily world of strife, where our husbands and grown children may spend their days. When they arrive home to a waiting table - a table that welcomes them with good food, love and fellowship, the filth of the day washes away. In preparing the food and eating of the meal together, we pave the way for the culmination of the meal - to feed the spirit. Did you know that every time Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples after His resurrection, it was when they were reclining at the table?  God loves to present Himself at the table of the family that fears the Lord. He loves to reveal His truth to us, as we open our hearts to Him and talk of his wondrous ways." 

And this is for our family the blessing of doing the Jesse tree. Each evening, after dinner, we take out the next ornament that reminds us of a story in the Old Testament, from the very first blink of the first star over Eden to the blinding light over Bethlehem - pointing us to the coming promise of the Messiah.  After reading of another promise fulfilled, we’ll hang the ornament of each story on the branches of our tree and we rejoice in the coming of Jesus, redeeming us from a dooming future!  Each child has a change to hang an ornament, while we ask one or two children to pray out loud with us. 

My absolute favourite devotion is the one of Abraham who had to offer his only beloved son, Isaac. How Abraham let his son carry the fire wood and he, himself carried the fire and knife. And then after binding Isaac on the fire wood, hand lifted high to offer his son, God provided a ram in the thistles. God always sees, He will always provide. 

The power of the Jesse tree, is how it talks into my life at first. The Lord ministers into my life in a way beyond what I can imagine. What a joy to share this with my children. 

Years ago, we received a teaching from Bruce Wilkinson on the Three Chairs. Often first generation Christians are sold out, Bible believing Christians, who experience the Lord in every day miracles. They share their testimonies with their children (the second generation), giving them the opportunity to choose to follow Christ. If the second generation do except the Lord Jesus Christ, but do not put Jesus in the centre of their lives and start to experience their own miracles and share their own testimonies. Instead still drawing memories from the first generation, their children, the third generation would most likely deny the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. The bottom line of the teaching, we must live a transparent Christ-like life for our children, or they will deny our faith, and seek answers elsewhere than from God. 

This past 25 days we could share with our children the miracle stories of the old Testament, but even more powerful, we could link it to stories in our own personal life, many of them current tests and struggles; seeking God for answers and experiencing victory, while they are witnessing and/or are partakers. I could never have imagined the holy moments where a little one get an ‘aaa-haa’ moment understanding a little more about Jesus and their purpose in Him, or an older child nod in absolute agreement.

This Christmas I come to understand more, that getting ready for Christmas has nothing to do with having all the presents and meals ready ahead of time. No! It is all about getting my heart ready to receive this Biggest Gift ever, Jesus Christ, my Saviour!

May you all have a blessed CHRISTlike feast.

Much love

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