The decorations adorning an evergreen tree at one metro-area school are handmade, brightly colored and diverse.
The ornaments hanging from the “Jesse tree” at St. James Catholic School also are educational.
Principal Anne Codding said at first glance the tree looks like a typical Christmas tree decorated with colorful baubles and tinsel. However, Codding said the handcrafted items hanging from the Jesse tree represent a person in Jesus’ lineage and events leading to His birth.
She said the premise of the Jesse tree comes from Isaiah 11:1, which says, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.”
Creating a Jesse tree is a way to bring Jesus’ family tree to life for students, Codding said.
“It’s a teaching tree. It teaches the kids and their parents about the lineage of Jesus,” she said.
“It’s also their personal roots as Christians.”
Codding said she previously had her classes make a Jesse tree each Christmas when she was a teacher. She said the custom is rooted in medieval times. Codding said that, as a principal, she realized the special tree is something the entire school can be part of.
“I wanted to do something with religious significance,” she said.
Each class at St. James, 1224 SW 41, from prekindergarten through eighth grade, was responsible for creating an ornament for the tree. For example, the kindergartners made ornaments representing Joseph’s coat of many colors, and the fourth-graders created rainbow ornaments to represent Noah.
Second-graders made ladder ornaments from craft sticks to represent Jacob, while fifth-graders made Ten Commandment ornaments to symbolize Moses.
Codding said she made the temple that sits atop the tree. For extra flair, she painted the phrase “God is love” in Hebrew on the miniature house of worship.
Sharing the message
Kindergarten teacher Brenda Tener said the kindergarten and first-grade classes have made their own Jesse trees for many years.
“The rest of the world says it’s Christmas, but we know in our church we’re waiting — this is Advent,” she said.
“We just take great delight in taking 10 to 15 minutes of each day to talk about the tree. It’s a delight to teach about our faith,” she said.
For two days, classes at St. James took turns adding their decorations to the schoolwide Jesse tree. A short ceremony to bless the tree preceded the decorating.
Codding said the decorated tree is on display near the altar at St. James the Greater Catholic Church, where it will remain through Christmas. The school is affiliated with the church, 4201 S McKinley.
She said her students enjoy seeing their decorated tree in such a prominent position in the church. She said the tree displayed for the entire parish seems to beckon people to take a closer look at the miniature lamb ornaments (representing Isaac) or the manger ornament (representing Jesus).
“It really invites people to come up and approach,” Codding said.
“Isn’t that what the Lord does? ... Invite people to come?”