Lisa Skinner thought it was time she stopped leaving discipleship to the church and engaged in some at home
Doing faith at home can be difficult, sometimes we rely heavily on the children’s ministries in our churches to disciple our children for us but truth be told that responsibility primarily lies with us as parents to ‘train up a child in the way they should go’ (Proverbs 22:6). Of course, we can work in partnership with the volunteers and youth and children’s pastors in our congregations but discipleship starts at home. The good news is that, Christmas, specifically Advent, presents us with an opportune time to share the gospel message with our children. After all, most of us go to great lengths to prepare for Christmas, not least when it comes to doing Elf on the Shelf pranks, so why wouldn’t we put the same effort into explaining the true meaning of the season to our families. I write this, not as a parent who has mastered sharing Jesus with my children, I still fall short in this area but I definitely find it easier to share Jesus with them in this season than I do in others.
Ten years ago an older lady who has been instrumental in my own faith journey, told me that she and a number of women from her Ladies Fellowship in her church has purchased copies of ‘The Advent Jesse Tree’ book and had spent many hours handcrafting decorations to go alongside the 25 devotions in the book. They lovingly put together packs, including the book and the decorations to gift to families in their home congregation. My dear friend said that she had put a set aside for my family. This act of kindness has blessed my family greatly over the years, Every December 1st sees us setting up our small tree in my girls’ bedroom, and over the course of the next 25 days we explore God’s salvation plan together, from the Garden of Eden to the baby in a manger.
I must confess that before my friend introduced us to ‘The Advent Jesse Tree’, I had never heard about it or even thought about leading my children through advent devotions to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. Since then, I’ve been evangelical about encouraging friends to buy the book for their own families or to find a similar devotion that will work for them. So I was overjoyed to receive a photo from a friend last week showing 25 little decorations that she had made for their Jesse Tree, a new addition to their home.
The devotions chart the story of God’s redemptive plan for the world, accompanied by 25 symbols from both the Old and New Testaments. Each symbol is then explained through Scripture, devotions, questions, prayers, a memory verse and a song (if you’re so inclined, we normally skip this part). In the book the Scripture is taken from the King James version of the Bible so I normally read the verses in language familiar to my children or sometimes I read from a different version.
Another benefit of this book is that adult devotions are included for your own quiet times throughout December. It’s not just your children who will be blessed in reading about Abram’s call, Jacob’s ladder, Ruth and Boaz, Josiah and the law and the Old Testament prophecies to name but a few. To be reminded of God’s rescue plan that is woven through every page of the Bible is a beautiful thing, made all the more beautiful by witnessing the wonder in the eyes of your children as they start to put the pieces of the Bible together.
Truth be told my four children can sometimes be reluctant learners but this is a time that they genuinely cherish. Each night they prioritise reading the devotion, daily reminding me of whose turn it is to hang the decoration on our special Christmas tree, not before everyone has answered a question of course. And what better way to celebrate one of the most meaningful times of the year than to teach your family about the roots of our Lord and together to prepare our hearts for the birthday of Jesus Christ.