3 Ways to Tie in Easter with Christmas

The joy of celebrating the Messiah’s incarnation can only be rivaled by the celebration of his death and resurrection. Without his sacrificial death on my behalf, I would be left only with a wonderful story of God coming to live with his people. That would be amazing and special, but carry no weight for my eternal soul. It is because of Christ’s mission to die for me, to take my place on the cross, that his birth on earth is so important. It is because of his powerful resurrection that I know he was more than a little baby in a manger, he was the Son of God. Without these key truths I would be left with no way to please God, no way to gain salvation.

Today I am going to share some practical ways to tie Christmas and Easter together as we celebrate these most wonderful of holidays.

1. Your Christmas Tree and Easter Cross

If you use a real Christmas tree, don’t simply toss it when January 1st roles around. Chop off a portion of the trunk and keep it for Easter time. [intlink id="2313" type="post"]During the season of Lent, fashion that trunk into two beams and make a cross. Use this cross as a centerpiece at your Easter celebration.[/intlink]

Using your Christmas tree to make a cross will remind you of the reason for celebrating Christmas- because the babe came to die for our sins.

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15 ESV)

2. Advent Candles in Reverse

Just as we celebrate the light coming into the world at Christmas time, during the season of Lent, we remember the Light of the World’s sacrificial death. As Easter approaches, instead of lighting candles one by one, blow them out one by one, representing the death of the Light (Christ). Then on Easter morning wake your family to a house full of lit candles representing the miraculous resurrection of Christ.

“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46 ESV)

3. Continue the Story of Your Jesse Tree

If you are partaking in the Jesse Tree tradition, let the story continue with a Passion Tree. Most Jesse Tree devotionals or suggested readings end with the birth of Christ (which is what we are celebrating at Christmas). A Passion Tree picks up at the birth and follows along with the life of Christ, preparing your family’s heart for the remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Click here for an example and even free devotional guide to a Passion Tree.

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:9-13 ESV)

Do you have any suggestions for tying in Easter with Christmas? If so, share them in the comments below!

Our Advent Tree

No family’s traditions are exactly the same. In fact, most of the traditions I shared with you in the [intlink id="216" type="category"]Cultivating a Christ-Centered Christmas[/intlink] series are not ones that we personally use and among the ones that we do use, some we have tweaked or recreated to fit our personal needs and desires. That is the point of family traditions right? They are your family’s traditions!

I am going to share with you the way my husband and I combined the Christian “Jesse Tree” tradition with our the traditional “Christmas Tree” tradition to provide a beautiful and unique way to worship and celebrate the Christ of Christmas.

Our Tree’s Backstory

Four years ago we decided to assess our Christmas tree. I’m sure it had something to do with me reading “Treasuring God in Our Traditions” by Noel Piper. In the book she explains that there never was a Christmas tree in their home. They didn’t really see a point since it had nothing to do with the incarnation. Rather than simply accepting cultural norms, they decided to only include traditions that truly pointed to the Christ and encouraged meditation on the Savior. My head started reeling the first time I read this. No Christmas tree?

My mother’s Christmas tree is a paradigm of Christmas trees. It is always very large, perfectly adorned by bows, ribbons, lights, and beads. The ornaments that decorate its fragrant branches range from porcelain ballerinas to fantastical glass blow fish.

Picking out the perfect tree every year growing up was a family affair (a battle that my brother somehow always won) and decorating the tree was a major event, one that my mother always seemed to make special. I loved our tree. I am still utterly enchanted when I walk into my parent’s home and take in the beautiful job she has done each year.

Would our home not have that same tradition? Would our children not walk through isles of trees searching for the perfect one to adorn our family room? This was something I would have to think and pray about.

As I researched more and more traditions that were specifically Christ-centered I came  across the Jesse Tree tradition. I loved the way it encouraged us to celebrate redemptive history, the way it caused us to think about the waiting that God’s people experienced as he fulfilled his promise of salvation. As I began to consider implementing it in our Christmas celebration I couldn’t help but feel that having a little tree (or even a branch as some use) that focused on the Savior and a very large, mostly arbitrary (beautifully arbitrary mind you!) Christmas tree during the celebration of Christ’s incarnation was a little lopsided.

Since we were already reassessing our Christmas tree to begin with, we decided to give the tradition an overhaul and meld the two trees together into one Christ-centered tree that would spur us on to love the Savior more every time we decorated it. And so our Christmas tree was born.

Our Christmas Tree Tradition

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.” (Isaiah 11:1-5 ESV)

“O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; from me comes your fruit.” (Hoseah 14:8 ESV)

We will begin decorate our tree tomorrow night on December 1st. As Richard brings it in and sets it up, I will prepare the hot chocolate and treats. We will start in the same way most do by stringing lights around the tree–a beautiful reminder of Christ’s illuminating character and sinless life (the more lights the better!).

Once the lights are strung, we will begin putting our ornaments on. One by one we adorn our tree with simple, beautiful ball ornaments that display the names of Christ. On each ornament I have written one of the ways the Bible refers to the Messiah as well as the scripture references. As we hang each name we say it out loud reminding each other of the many attributes of Christ. As our children get older and the tradition can last longer, we hope to take time to read several of the references associated with the names.

Next we hang cross ornaments to remind us of the reason Christ was born as a baby in the flesh of men. This is a collection we have just begun and look forward to adding to. I love to see the crosses amongst the various names of Christ as well as amongst our advent ornaments as it reminds me that every event in Biblical history points to the mission of God to redeem his people.

Once all of our ornaments are hung, we add red ribbon that cascades down our tree reminding us of the precious blood that was shed for our forgiveness.

And of course, the last thing to be added is the star, reminiscent of “his star” which the wise men followed to find the Christ-child.

Now comes the advent part. I have made ornaments using picture frame ornaments that capture various biblical characters and events (most can be found in a typical Jesse Tree listing). These ornaments trace through the course of redemptive history beginning with Creation and ending at the coming of the Messiah. Each night leading up to Christmas we add one ornament to the tree and read the corresponding account in the Bible. Slowly, but surely, they fill the tree with the story of salvation as they wind up from the bottom of the tree to the top where they meet the glowing star. This wonderful tradition is helpful not only for the children, but for us as well. Together we remember (and our children learn) the need we, as a fallen race, had for a Savior. Through learning the anticipation of God’s people, we too build anticipation for Christmas day when we celebrate the Messiah’s coming.

As the advent ornaments continue to be added to our tree, a wonderful story of God’s interaction with his people begins to unfold. All the while this incredible story is nestled in among reminders of the Savior, to whom it all belongs.

I love our tree. 

I love that it has a purpose and that every time I look at it I am stirred to think on the amazing truths of salvation. When I look at it I think of my Savior.

Our prayer is that God would use this tradition in our children’s lives to not only teach them the story of salvation, but captivate their little hearts with the joy we have in God’s goodness to his people.

My Challenge to You

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Every family’s traditions will look different. My hope in sharing our Christmas Tree Tradition with you is not say, “You should do this too,” but to encourage you to be intentional about your celebration and don’t be afraid to step outside the box a little in an effort to honor the Lord and worship him through your traditions. I have found so much joy in coming up with creative ways to make our Christmas about the One who is worthy of so much celebration.

Practical Advent Traditions for a Christ-Centered Christmas

Yesterday we looked at the motivation behind celebrating a Christ-centered Christmas. If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to take the time to [intlink id="5963" type="post"]read yesterday’s post (as well as enter yesterday’s giveaway!)[/intlink] before moving on to these practical suggestions for Christ-centered traditions. 

Now that you are considering how you can cultivate a distinctly Christian Christmas celebration in your home, let’s look at some practical ways to do so. Keep in mind that no family should do all of these things. Trying to do too much during the holiday season, even good things, can result in a loss of the meditative spirit we are hoping to cultivate. Many of these traditions overlap and some of them cannot be done at the same time. Choose the traditions that are the most meaningful to you or use these suggestions as inspiration to create your own Christ-centered traditions.

Through sharing a wealth of ideas with you, I hope to prove that by focusing on Christ, rather than the many materialistic and mystical traditions the world focuses on, you are not giving up a joyful, meaningful, memorable Christmas. On the contrary, by focusing our hearts and minds on the Living God throughout the Christmas season, we will do lasting good to our lives, our children’s lives, and the lives of the watching world around us. Today we will start with advent activities.

Anticipating the Messiah King Through Advent

(Advent: The coming of the Messiah)

Advent Wreaths/Candles- There are many ways to use candles during advent. You can simply have 25 tea light candles which are lit one by one as the days get closer to Christmas or you can celebrate with the traditional Advent Wreath, which also makes a great centerpiece for your table!

An advent wreath is very easy to make and is a fun activity for your family to collectively participate in as you look forward to celebrating the coming of the Messiah. It consists of four candles placed in the vines of a wreath and a white “Christ” candle in the center. The four colored candles are lit each of the Sundays before Christmas one by one until they are all lit. (The first week only one candle is lit, the second week two are lit, etc…) This is meant to symbolize the coming of the Light of the World. Traditionally three of the candles are purple and one is pink (the purple symbolizes royalty and the pink symbolizes the anticipation of Christmas, thus it is a mixture of the purple and white candles). The center candle is larger and white. It is lit Christmas Eve or Christmas day to symbolize Christ entering our world. You can easily encorporate this tradition with nightly or weekly devotions that focus on the coming Messiah.  Advent Wreath Photo Credit

What we do: In the past we have only used simple advent candles around our nativity scene, and most recently we used an advent wreath that I made. I used four red candles to symbolize the bloody sacrificial system that was used up until Christ, the Lamb of God, who’s sacrifice sealed our pardon for all of eternity. We have one very large, beautiful white candle to symbolize the pure and holy Christ entering our world. Each night that we light a new candle we read a different prophesy that relates to the Messiah coming to save the world.

Advent Wreath/Candle Resources:

Advent/Jesse Tree- This tradition is typically reserved for those of us with children, but I would encourage even those without children to use the advent readings as you prepare your heart for the celebration of Christ’s birth. (Here is a sample list of readings. There are many different options online and even devotional books you can purchase.) The Jesse Tree is named after Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots.”  It is a vehicle to tell the progressive story of redemption throughout the Old Testament, and to connect the Advent Season with the faithfulness of God across 4,000 years of history. The “shoot” or “branch” coming from Jesse’s lineage is a symbol of the hope Israel had in a coming Messiah. Each ornament hung on a small tree, or in many homes a branch, or for some on a banner, represents a particular moment in salvific history. For instance the first ornament would be something like a globe symbolizing creation and then perhaps a fruit symbolizing the fall. Each night leading up to Christmas you read a section of scripture related to one particular moment in the history of Christ’s lineage and then hang a corresponding ornament. Most people make their own ornaments with their children, but you can also buy kits like the one offered in today’s giveaway at the bottom of this post! Jesse Tree Photo Credit

What we do: Our Jesse Tree is our Christmas Tree. Rather than having a separate tree that is more “spiritual” or Jesus focused, we decided to make the main purpose of our Christmas tree to celebrate the Messiah. Each night we add an ornament to our Christmas Tree and read the corresponding scriptures which takes the place of our usual family worship. This year I have finally gotten around to making my own ornaments that are a bit nicer than our previous paper ornaments. I chose artwork that featured the actual scenes or people we would be reading about rather than symbols and decoupaged them into ornament frames. I used red ribbon to hang them with to symbolize the blood of Christ which runs through all of redemptive history.

Jessie Tree Resources:

A Growing Nativity- Nativity scenes are an obvious way to decorate your home with the Gospel message. In fact, Noel Piper collects nativity scenes from their travels and fills her home with them on Christmas! Another way to build anticipation for Christ’s coming is to slowly build your nativity scene over the advent season rather than setting out the whole thing at once. You can either set it out piece by piece every couple of days (depending on how many pieces you have) or you can simply save Jesus for Christmas Eve/Day. Either way leave Jesus for last to represent the “wait” for the Messiah.

Advent Calendars (for families with children)- We are all familiar with Advent calendars, which can be a fun way for children to count down the days until Christmas. Rather than a calendar with Santa art on it, look for one that focuses on the nativity or create one of your own.

Advent Calendar Resources:

What we do: I am hoping to one day create an advent calendar with our Jesse Tree ornaments either by hanging them on a board under corresponding numbers or by hanging them in little numbered pouches over our “future fireplace.”

Advent Books (for families with children)- Let Christmas be a special time to bring out all of your Nativity centered books and books about the Christian Christmas message. As you build your collection or find new books to check out at the library wrap them like presents and mark them with numbers counting down to the days until Christmas. (If you only have three such books this year start three nights before Christmas, let the countdown get larger as your collection of books grows.) Try to find at least one new book every year to either add to the collection or replace another book once your collection is big enough. Open one book each morning as a special way to prepare your hearts for Christmas. Reserve the newest book for Christmas Day and let it be the first present you open and read together before opening all the other presents. Look for a list of books our family uses and recommends next week! Advent Books Photo Credit