I tried to start a new Christmas tradition with my son this year. It went down in flames.
Okay, maybe I exaggerate.
A few months ago, I stumbled across some online postings about families participating in decorating a Jesse Tree. Essentially, this entails reading passages of scripture every day of Advent that tell the story from Creation to the birth of Jesus. Each day’s reading comes with a symbolic ornament of that scripture passage to hang on a tree.
My son, Hosea, is four years old, and I am trying really hard to be intentional about having Christmas in our house be centered on who Jesus is. Of course, we still have a Christmas tree, gingerbread baking, present wrapping, Trader Joe’s chocolate advent calendars -- but I want to establish a tradition of purposefully setting aside time to consider the true reason for the season. So when I heard about Jesse Trees, I thought: This is perfect! Hosea’s in an art phase right now! We’ll color in ornaments every day and read about Jesus!
So I ordered a Jesse Tree Advent devotional book on Amazon, with scriptures and simple prayers for each day, and because I’m a cheap frugal parent, I tracked down and downloaded some free “color them yourself” ornaments. So far so good.
December 1 arrived and I explained to Hosea that we’ll be coloring in ornaments every day to make a Jesse Tree. He’s excited. The prospect of being able to color every day and hang it on a tree! I read the story of Creation while he colors in. We hang it on the tree -- well, at this point we didn’t even have a tree (that’s for another blog) -- so we stuck it on a special part of the wall where the tree would soon be.
Day 2. The first thing Hosea wants to do is color in the Jesse Tree ornament. Yes! Success! We stick it on the wall.
Day 3. He wants to color in another one, but it’s the whale (he’s really into sharks and sea life right now). Hmm. Sure son, we can do the whale today. I’ll read to you about Jonah. We can do this in any order we like!
Day 4. Halfway through the coloring and reading, Hosea puts down his markers and says “Daddy, I’ll finish this tomorrow.”
Day 5. “I don’t want to color in, Daddy.”
Folks, we are on Day 15 and we haven’t done any more Jesse Tree ornaments. We have three colorful ornaments on the wall, and one sort of complete one.
And I’d love to tell you that Hey, the ornaments aren’t the important thing, the stories are! We’re still reading the book!
Somewhere between Day 4 and today we got a little lost. I could name a number of (legitimate) things that caused me to derail -- I’m in the middle of producing a Christmas Presentation (get your free tickets here!); Hosea was away with his grandparents; the Trader Joe’s chocolate advent calendar is way more exciting -- but ultimately, it’s because I lost my desire to make time for it.
It wasn’t going how I thought it would, and so I sort of just gave up.
I do that with a lot of things.
But if I judge the “success” of our 2019 Christmas solely on this event, I’d miss so much. I’d miss out on remembering the importance of our conversations after church about what he learned and what the meaning is behind the angels and stars that he has made. Those are intentional conversations I stepped into. And I’d miss out on the other ways we’re trying to point to Jesus in this season - smaller ways that a four year old is better able to comprehend - like baking chocolate cupcakes to celebrate His birthday.
And so as I sit here writing this, two weeks into the Advent season, with my dreams of a beautiful, new, Jesus-centered tradition dashed, I realize that there is still time to try again. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to go according to plan, and no matter how many times it fails, I can just keep trying.
Isn’t that the beauty of grace?
Maybe you thought your Christmas would look different as well.
Maybe you haven’t done the things you said you’d do.
Maybe you’ve tried so many times already and just feel like giving up on it all.
Whatever you’re feeling, wherever you may be, this is the season for handing all of that over to Jesus, to hang our concerns and feelings in His arms the same way we’d hang ornaments on a tree. He’s the gentle Babe born in the straw, who says “Come to me, and I will give you rest.”