Tag: the advent jesse tree

4 Family Devotionals for Advent

Note: This post is a leftover from last year, one I ran out of room to publish because I suffered from an ailment known as So Many Christmas Books to Review, So Little Time. But because the books are still worth sharing, even though our dining room is now properly floored and even has a few things on the walls, I present to you now a slightly-outdated collection of our favorite Advent devotionals.

Enjoy!


One of the advantages of not having fully moved into your house is that you can put your Christmas tree pretty much anywhere. One of the disadvantages is that your Christmas decorations and books are buried somewhere in the shop behind all the other stuff, so you might not have any actual decorations on display at the start of Advent.

Ah, well. But we have a dining room. That’ll do.

We also have a handful of Advent devotionals I’m eager to share with you! At least one of us will be somewhat prepared for Advent this year. (Hint: you.)

4 Family Devotionals for Advent | Little Book, Big Story

The Advent Jesse Treeby Dean Lambert Smith

The Advent Jesse Tree: A Family Devotional for Advent | Little Book, Big Story

This is our tried-and-true, come-back-to-it-every-year favorite. The Advent Jesse Tree walks readers through the whole story of redemption, one day (and one tiny ornament) at a time. You can read my full review of the book here, or learn what a Jesse Tree is and how our family uses ours in this post right here.

A Jesus Christmasby Barbara Reaoch

A Jesus Christmas, by Barbara Reaoch | Little Book, Big Story

This is a brand-new, interactive devotional that reminds me a little of our beloved Exploring the Bible. There is family journaling space with each reading, as well as room to write answers to questions. You could simply read it as a family and ignore the journaling prompts; you could read it and then discuss it and have one person record answers to the questions; or you could do what we plan to do and get all the writers in your family their own copy. (Read the full review.)

The Littlest Watchman, by Scott James

The Littlest Watchman, by Scott James | Little Book, Big Story

Through the story of the Watchmen, a fictional family tasked with watching and waiting for the Messiah’s coming, Scott James invites families to see what it might have been like for the Israelites to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait for the Messiah. That long wait makes his coming all the more joyous! This is a great devotional for families with young kids. You can even get a (very affordable) Advent calendar and devotional to go along with it. Our family used this book last year and loved it. (Read the full review.)

Prepare Him Room, by Marty Machowski

Prepare Him Room, by Marty Machowski | Little Book, Big Story

If Marty Machowski keeps writing awesome devotionals, our family will keep buying them. Prepare Him Room follows the format of Wise Up (more so than, say, Long Story Short), in that it’s a series of daily devotions sprinkled liberally with hymns to sing and projects to do. This one also features a story that draws readers into the celebration. The Gospel saturates everything, as always.


Which ADvent Devotional Does Your Family Love?

A Quick Guide to Jesse Tree Ornaments

It’s two weeks from now, and you’ve dropped by to borrow an egg. From the front door, where you stand chatting with me about the weather (weirdly clear, and the grass is crunchy with frost), you can see our kitchen table and on it, a jar full of gathered branches. If you squint, you can see a few small ornaments hanging from the very tips of the branches—our daughter’s preferred spot to hang them being as close to the end of the branch as possible, so that looking at the fragile globes suspended over our Formica-topped table gives you a sense of nervousness that you can’t immediately place.

Celebrating Advent with a Jesse Tree | Little Book, Big Story

Perhaps you think, That’s an odd centerpiece, as you pocket the egg and walk home.

But if you came back two weeks after that, with a plate of homemade Christmas cookies for us (you are the kindest and most sharing neighbor), you’d find those branches covered in ornaments—twenty-five of them, more or less evenly distributed over the branches. And you would sit at the table with us and drink tea (because we’re nice neighbors, too), and as we talked, you’d notice that each of those ornaments has a picture on it: a sheaf of wheat, an ark, a scribble meant to be a snake. You would put down your tea and look at them closely. You’d finally ask, “What is this?”

And I would say, “Oh! That’s our Jesse tree.”

To Make Or Buy? A Guide to Jesse Tree Ornaments | Little Book, Big Story

But now, let’s say that you want to make a Jesse tree of your own. How would you go about it? Assembling the tree itself is pretty straightforward—we use the process as an excuse to lightly prune the lilac beside our porch—but collecting the Jesse tree ornaments is a bit more challenging. You need twenty-five different ornaments, after all, each of them printed with a specific image. Would you purchase the ornaments pre-made? Could you make them yourself? (Would you even want to?)

Here are your answers, in short: yes, yes, and possibly, I suppose, but that depends on what sort of person you are, whether you’d rather spend time or money on this project, and if the thought of making twenty-five of anything makes the back of your neck feel unpleasantly ticklish.

So. Let’s explore your options, shall we?

To Make

I now have two separate sets of Jesse tree ornaments (one to accompany The Advent Jesse Tree, the other to accompany a different book that didn’t work out for us), and I made each set for under $10 and in what amounts to roughly one hour, spread out over the course of a few days. (There were small children involved, after all.)

DIY Jesse Tree ornaments (with instructions!) | Little Book, Big Story

For the set on top, I used air-dry clay and Sharpie markers. The process is quick and meditative: shape the clay into 25 balls, smoosh them into discs, and use a bamboo skewer to make the holes. After the clay has dried thoroughly (and not a moment before! I learned that lesson the hard way), draw the symbols recommended in your book on the front of the disc; number the back (you’ll thank yourself later). Run twine, string, or ornament hooks through the holes and voila! The season is officially begun!

DIY Jesse Tree ornaments, made with air-dry clay and Sharpie markers (post includes instructions) | Little Book, Big Story

For the set on the bottom, my original set, the process is even easier. I bought a package of those tiny ornaments at a craft store for under $5 and decorated them with a gold paint pen. (Note: you can find my tutorial for that origami Advent calendar here.)

DIY Jesse Tree Ornaments | Little Book, Big Story

And now you know how you’ll be spending your weekend.

To Buy

But for those of you who would rather not spend your weekend drawing tiny pictures on round bulbs, there are other options. These ones will cost you more in money than time, but they’re beautiful and they will probably last longer than my ornaments will. The one thing you have to watch out for, though, is that some sets are designed to go with a certain book. Make sure you double check the symbols before purchasing.

For a customizable option, take a peek at these beauties from the Etsy shop Jesse Tree Treasures. You can customize your order by choosing from 60 possible images for your ornaments. That way, you can ensure that your set matches whichever book your family follows (for the record: I love this idea):

Jesse Tree ornaments from Jesse Tree Treasures | Little Book, Big Story

And then there is the gourmet, deluxe, extra-fancy set from the Etsy shop Baby Whatnots. This listing includes a full set of handmade ornaments, as well as a copy of Unwrapping the Greatest Gift (we weren’t, for the record, crazy about that book) and all the goods you could want to make your very own Jesse Tree (except branches—you’re on your own for those):

Jesse Tree Ornaments from Baby Whatnots | Little Book, Big Story


And now that your research is done, you can start thinking about those cookies. (We like chocolate, if that helps. And sprinkles.)