Greg and Sarah Damm’s six children anticipate Christmas, but they also look forward to each Advent day’s journey toward the holy day.
As the family prays together and take turns hanging Jesse Tree ornaments that reflect the history behind the Messiah’s coming, that story comes alive and enriches the season, said Sarah, who attends Transfiguration in Oakdale with her family.
“We try to embrace Advent traditions so we’re not just rushing into Christmas,” she said. “The time of Advent is of hope, anticipation and hungering — all to enter in a real and tangible way. It helps us not to rush into Christmas and just take our time with it. It makes Christmas that much more joyous.”
Each of the Damms’ 2-and-3/8-inch diameter wooden Jesse Tree ornaments has a painted image of salvation history corresponding to a Scripture passage. They are the creation of two moms who’ve also sought ways to share faith with their own kids: Angie O’Connell and Jane Lagerquist, founders of Jesse Tree Treasures.
“We tried to pick the [images] that were the most popular, the most kid-friendly, that would captivate them and were key in the story,” said O’Connell, who attends St. Joseph in West St. Paul. “To kind of really know the Bible and have exposure to the various books to the Old Testament.”
Two years after O’Connell and Lagerquist offered their first Jesse Tree ornament sets online for the season of Advent, Jesse Tree Treasures continues to grow as the partners offer new products designed to help families delve deeper into prayer and understand the meaning behind various Church seasons.
The idea developed when the two women, whose children attend the same school, discussed Advent traditions and their difficulty finding products to celebrate the season. Lagerquist, who attends Roseville Lutheran Church, suggested they paint images onto wood pieces after researching the Jesse Tree.
The first four sets they offered online sold within a half-hour, O’Connell said. With Lagerquist creating many of the images which are now printed and attached to wood, and O’Connell compiling Scripture and prayers to accompany the ornaments, the partners have sold more than 200 sets to buyers in the U.S. and other countries.
“It’s really been upbuilding to see,” O’Connell said. “All over the world people want to share their faith with their children.” Along with families, the ornaments have been a hit with grandparents and godparents.
Jesse Tree Treasures also offers ornaments for the 12 Days of Christmas, Stations of the Cross and Holy Week as well as a set of wooden miniatures designed to teach kids about Jesus’ parables. New this year is a children’s book of stories for each day of Advent written by local author Megan Dunsmore and illustrated with the ornament images.
Lagerquist and O’Connell have created a set of ornaments for the “O Antiphons,” seven scriptural titles for the Messiah that mark the final days before Christmas and are featured in the hymn “O Come Emmanuel.”
To enhance the Christmas season, the partners offer ornaments for the 12 days of Christmas based on the popular Christmas carol. As the song was originally used to teach children the faith, the ornaments describe each gift’s faith meaning.
Lagerquist and O’Connell hope their products help families enter into the Church seasons through their own traditions of family prayer. Those of a range of Christian denominations, including Orthodox, have expressed enthusiasm about the ornaments, O’Connell said.
Said Lagerquist: “Each person you send it to has a different story and you hope that it touches them,” she said. “If for some of them it makes a difference, it would be quite a blessing.”
Items from Jesse Tree Treasures are available at http://www.jessetreetreasures.com.