My 5 year old Autistic son, who lacked functional language was given the first disk of the Jesus Storybook Bible (JSB) series. We played it on daily drives in our mini van while he and his two brothers played in their seats.
A month after regularly listening to this DVD, we brought out the JSB to read for our nightly devotions with the boys. My husband, opening the book, spoke one word and our five year old chimed in with every single word to the first story, and the several stories that followed.
I hope I never forget that feeling as we looked into each other’s eyes with tears – knowing this meant something beautiful about his mind and his future. We, of course, went the next morning and bought the remaining 3 DVDs in the set!
Later that same year, a friend invited me to make homemade, painted ornaments for a Jesse Tree. That sounded stressful! I had never heard of a Jesse Tree, but after a little more research, and a little more nudging from my friend, we created ornaments in time for December.
What Bible did we use for the readings? You guessed it….the JSB! The repetition has made for a deepening Christmas experience each year. While we will not always use this Bible it has been a cherished part of our tradition with our young children.
The Jesse tree is not a stress-filled, “one more thing to do” type of experience. It is a call to come away and take a brief, quiet moment each day to engage with the Christmas story. It can be celebrated with nothing more than one person and a Bible! A tree, ornaments, activities, family, and friends all add to the experience, but all we need is Jesus.
This year I am inviting you to join me in starting your own Jesse Tree tradition starting December 1. Here is how!
Step 1: Pick the set of Bible Stories you want to use.
Start at the beginning of the Bible and highlight the main stories and characters where it is easy to see Jesus. Many lists can be found online. Distinctly, my list includes the passages of prophecy. For my family, I want them to connect with Scripture as a whole and see when God says He will bring about something through His Word, He will do it….even if it takes a long time in our eyes. As an Autism family, this faith issue of relying on the truth of God’s Word over what our eyes can see and what our hearts can understand will carry us through when nothing else will.
Step 2: Select Ornaments to help you remember the Bible Stories each day.
Here are common sources for these ornaments:
• Order a set online or use free printables found on Pinterest.
• Make your own ornaments! Thick tree branches, painted glass balls, large gift tags and simple laminated pictures work well!
• Use common every day items you have at home and make ornaments. A trinket, a game piece, a kids toy….these are a few to get you started!
If you use ornaments, keep them all organized in something for the next year. I have a cheap wooden box I found on clearance, and our kids call it our “treasure box”. A good name, indeed! If you desire to use a separate tree other than your regular Christmas tree for these ornaments there are SO MANY good DIY ideas out there – even just using a piece of board and nails! I would be glad to help you with that as well!
Step 3: Engage with the story!
Discussion or prayer is plenty. This year, however, I am trying something more hands-on for a multi-sensory experience. For each Jesse Tree story, I have a simple sensory activity or craft using mostly items I already have around the house.
Creating a meaningful new Christmas tradition does not require more money, more time, and more effort. In this modern day of boredom and apathy despite every technology and form of entertainment at our fingertips, let us set it all aside and come away to meet with Jesus to together anticipate the single most glorious birth in the history of all creation.
O Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Lord.
Here is the link to my Facebook page where you can join with me to begin your new tradition!
I will have my Jesse Tree Scripture Reading list, as well as another option without prophecies for you on my Facebook page. Also posted there is a short Sensory Activity supply list and photos of ornaments to inspire your creativity if you decide to go beyond the readings (which again, is optional).
I hope you will share YOUR new Jesse Tree experiences along the way to encourage me and others! Go there now, and like and follow the page to receive reminders, tips, and resources that will make the Jesse Tree perhaps your favorite tradition of the Christmas season too!