Jesse Tree Ornaments Offer Opportunity for Advent Family Prayer

Christmas Gift Guide feature

Courtesy of Jesse Tree Treasures
Courtesy of Jesse Tree Treasures

PREPARING FOR CHRISTMAS. A handmade Advent ornament. Courtesy of Jesse Tree Treasures

 

 

When Jane Lagerquist came to Angie O’Connell’s home in West St. Paul, Minn., during Advent seven years ago, the friends looked at O’Connell’s paper-laminated Jesse Tree ornaments and talked about how hard it was to find quality materials to celebrate and teach children about the Church seasons.

Two years later, Lagerquist, who has an art background and lives in the nearby Minneapolis suburb of Roseville, returned to O’Connell’s home with images she’d painted for a set of Jesse Tree ornaments. The Jesse Tree is an Advent tradition in which Old and New Testament images related to salvation history are hung on a tree in anticipation of Christmas.

The Minnesota moms mounted the images on wood pieces for their families and then advertised a few extra sets online. The ornaments sold within half an hour, O’Connell said.  

The Jesse Tree ornaments, which come in sets of 28 to 60, are round wooden pieces and have a painted image corresponding to a Scripture passage; the ornaments are durable and washable. O’Connell and Lagerquist researched Jesse Tree devotions to come up with the images, O’Connell said. They also collaborated with Twin Cities author Megan Dunsmore on a book that features text and images that correspond with their original Jesse Tree set.

Since they formally introduced their Jesse Tree ornaments in 2010, O’Connell and Lagerquist, who now work through their business, Jesse Tree Treasures (JesseTreeTreasures.com), have seen growing demand. They offer a variety of Jesse Tree items, along with materials for Church seasons, including Christmas, Lent and Easter, which help families celebrate and pray together.

“We wanted it to be something that is really tangible, especially for kids, to learn the Old Testament and their faith and how it relates to Jesus’ birth and salvation,” O’Connell said.

An alternative to hand-making ornaments, the Jesse Tree sets and other products help children think about Scripture in each season, while enjoying a fun activity, according to the crafty moms. The items also help families — Catholics and those of other Christian denominations — form the habit of praying together. 

For Jessica Gordon, focusing on Advent can be a challenge, and the Jesse Tree set her family uses offers one way to stay in tune with the faith before Christmas.

The ornaments are “a great way to teach children to read the Bible together and travel through history to the time of Christ’s birth each Advent,” she said. “It definitely has helped them focus on the reason for the season and prepare for Christmas.”

Gordon, who has seven children and lives in Oregon, said she likes the quality, artwork and simplicity of the set. Gordon has two popular Catholic blogs called Shower of Roses  and Catholic Cuisine.

Other products include an ornament set for Lent and Easter called the Jesus Tree; Stations of the Cross; ornaments with images of the O Antiphons, from a monastic tradition of prayer with readings for Dec. 17-23; a set of small Montessori-inspired wooden items used to teach about Jesus’ parables; ornaments based on the Christmas carol The 12 Days of Christmas; and a set used to explain the sacraments.

During the Christmas season, Gordon uses the “12 Days of CHRISTmas” ornaments to teach her children about the faith and to remind them that Christmas continues after Dec. 25. Gordon uses the ornaments as decorations for the 12-days-of-Christmas party she has for her children.

“Simplifying and focusing on our faith, prayer and Scripture is a beautiful way to prepare for Christmas and celebrate Christmas once Christmas really arrives,” she said. 

O’Connell said she hopes the faith-filled products will encourage families to pray together throughout the year.  

“I think people want to share their faith with their children, and, oftentimes, they don’t know how to begin a family prayer,” she said. “This is a really neat way to start in a season when you have the Bible passages right there, or even the book that we offer with it that is in an easy-to-understand format for children.”

O’Connell and Lagerquist are considering new items based on the rosary, the Blessed Mother and a Mass kit. As their products have blessed her own five children, O’Connell hopes they will encourage more children to pray and enter into Church seasons.

“My goal is to have them grow up and have their prayer life in place and understand the seasons and how to celebrate them and not be able to imagine the season without them.”

Susan Klemond writes from

St. Paul, Minnesota.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.