The Advent season gives us time to take part in wonderful family traditions that create memories for a lifetime. Some of us like to spend Advent season in the kitchen, baking decadent desserts. Some of us like to attend local events such as a live nativity scene or a Christmas tree lighting. Some of us like to get crafty and create DIY wreaths and garlands. No matter what your family tradition is during the holiday season, most us find joy with our families. Here is one family that has a tradition that not only brings joy, but it fills them with gratitude and reminds them of the real reason for this season.
In our family, we have a joke: “If we do something we enjoy or like once, it’s going to become a tradition!” I’m thankful that 28 years ago God gave me a push to try something once that has now been a tradition every December.
28 years ago, I was a young mom with a precious two-year-old and another baby on the way. As December approached that year, I began thinking about what I might do to let our daughter help decorate our apartment and attempt to keep the focus on Jesus, not the toys and “stuff” that were coming. What came out of that desire is known as our “Jesus Tree.”
For almost three decades, we have filled out simple cards (business card size) that have “Thank you Jesus for…” written/printed at the top. Each person in our family writes or draws something they are thankful for, signs their name, and ties the cards to a tree that becomes a focus in our home (typically in the kitchen). That first year, the tree was a little two-and-a-half-foot, $8.00 tree from Walmart. Now, it’s a seven-and-a-half-foot tree that starts off with just white lights and becomes covered with cards by the end of December.
Through the years, the things written on the cards have served as almost a diary or recording of the year, giving thanks for what God has done or is doing in each of our lives.
New jobs, new relationships (with three daughters, there were a lot of “boyfriends” mentioned through the years!), sweet times with friends and family, random things we were enjoying (e.g., “Tacos” and “my Santa Snuggie”) and amazing words about how thankful we are for having a relationship with Jesus Christ—all year long!
As the Christmas season comes to an end and we put the decorations away for another year, I remove the cards from the tree and put them all in a baggie with the year marked on the front. We have a box full of cards from previous years that we often pull out at some point when we are all together over the holidays. It always brings smiles and tears as we read back over God’s faithfulness through the years.
I love the cards that mention people by name that we have thanked Jesus for: family members, friends, teachers, members of our church/youth pastors, co-workers, neighbors, and people that we somehow met or interacted with that day.
The cool thing about that first year—it became our thing and it worked to help keep our focus on the One that this season is truly about! I still have the cards that our daughter scribbled on that meant “Daddy” and “Mommy” and “Grandma Judy” (because we asked her and she told us!).
While I always look forward to what my kids (now all married) and husband share each year, I must say that it’s pure joy to know that this tradition is being carried down to the two little ones I’m most thankful for this year. They call me “Lolli,” and you better believe that I’m keeping these cards and the memories of them participating in the “Jesus Tree” forever!
What traditions do you enjoy during the Christmas Season? You never know—I might just try it once!