A few years ago, our family started a Jesse Tree tradition during Advent. The idea was to make December less focused on presents and more focused on the religious aspect of why we celebrate the holiday.
Because I’m me, I wasn’t super happy with the ornaments or the devotions that I found. A friend in Dallas told me a group of women in her church had the same problem, so they got together and did something about it. They made it into a Christmas party… just a little early.
This is totally my territory: parties and crafts. I asked around if anyone else was interested in participating in this. No one was more shocked than me that I was able to convince 22 other women to go along with this plan. I mean, I know I have psychocrafting issues, but I had higher expectations of my friends.
The idea was we would do the ornament making and exchange in the summer, so that things would be less hectic than in the Christmas season when all Hell breaks loose. As it turns out, there’s really never a time when people are not crazy busy. But we forged ahead anyway.
These ladies took on the rather ambitious idea that I had and made it reality. Child labor was employed (or forced, depending on the home). Together 23 women representing the wide range of beliefs that fall under the umbrella of Christianity crafted with 25 sets of 25 ornaments for the holidays.
We made ornaments symbolizing the genealogy of Christ from Creation to birth in Bethlehem. It was really amazing to what each women brought to the process: some of her own tradition, understanding and creativity.
I really believe each ornament was infused with love, laughter, hope, faith and little bit of anxiety about deadlines and beauty. And let’s just be honest, there was some wine and/or vodka involved in getting these done. While the ornaments are not sacred on their own, they hold in them the best intentions of each of these women to make memories with their families that will last beyond Santa and toys.
I wrote the devotions for each of the 25 days to go along with the ornaments. That turned out to be a real test of faith for me. Some of these stories, particularly in the Old Testament, are not exactly easy to explain to adults, let alone children. Those people are seriously messed up. Murder, genocide, infanticide and war don’t really make for good tidings of great joy for all people.
Fortunately, I have great friends with good humor who helped me through the process and listened to my tirades about how Hagar got a raw deal and how Abraham needed to man up to Sarah and how Moses was a ridiculous whiny baby and how throwing your brother in a well before you sell him into slavery doesn’t exactly earn you a place in the lineage of the Lord and Savior of the Universe.
The end result of the all of this was, I hope, an honest depiction of what God can do, even with and through flawed humans. I was reminded again, the real Christmas story is not about people, it’s about believing in the miracle that God can use even truly broken souls, like me.
I am actually looking forward to Christmas this year. I’m certain that feeling will pass once I’m going nuts trying to get everything done in December. But I can’t wait to hang all these really special ornaments on our Jesse Tree. The best part for me is that for years to come, these fabulous women are part of our family’s story. We are woven together in the best fabric possible: tradition, faith and family.
Since our party, I’ve heard from several people they would like to host a Jesse Tree ornament exchange of their own. So I’ve put all the organizing tools and devotions in my Etsy store. You can download your own party kit and get crafting with the special people in your life.