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Sunday, 02 January 2011 16:36

Jesse Tree tradition leads families through Advent to Christmas

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Four-year-old Simon Bruening, a young parishioner at Blessed Sacrament in Springfield, takes a close look at an ornament that came from one of his mother’s friends. Molly Bruening organized a Jesse Tree ornament swap in early November.Just over two dozen women — many of them young mothers — worked together this fall to make ornaments for Jesse Trees to share with their families. Springfield Blessed Sacrament parishioner Molly Bruening led the project, posting it on Facebook and presenting the idea to her Bible study group that meets at Christ the King Parish.

The Jesse Tree represents Jesus' family tree, explains Bruening, who has been leading the Parish School of Religion Program at Blessed Sacrament for several years. It takes Christians through that first long Advent which lasted from the Fall of Man to the Incarnation with a collection of Scripture meditations that prepare folks for the coming of Christ at Christmas.

"Some of us had talked about doing this last year but we didn't get to it in time," Bruening says. "This year I started the process in October, so we would have almost a month to finish the ornaments."

Altogether 26 women volunteered to pick an ornament — Bruening and Stacey DePooter each picked two — and made 28 copies of it. Bruening made sure all the women had a good idea of how to make their ornament and even hosted an ornament exchange breakfast for the women and their young children.

Another ornament on the tree represents the town of Bethlehem. “This ornament is one of my favorites,” says Molly Bruening. “It was made by Liz Bailey, who also belongs to Blessed Sacrament Parish.”  When they all gathered together, Bruening also gave them a Scripture booklet to lead each family in decorating their Jesse Tree. "Not everyone could come, but quite a few did," she says. "So we had quite a crowd in my little house. But it was fun."

There are many ways to make a Jesse Tree, Bruening says. "Some families just draw pictures on paper, cut them out and hang them up as ornaments on a stick or small tree. Many families add their ornaments each night as they sit down for dinner. Others put up their ornaments before bed. Whichever way you choose to do your Jesse Tree it is sure to make for a great family tradition."

The mother of three children who are age 4 and under, Bruening is teaching her young family to keep Advent as a "time of waiting."

"We put our Christmas tree up at the beginning of Advent and use it as our Jesse Tree," she says. "When we add our Baby Jesus ornament on Christmas Eve, we light our tree and then swap our Jesse Tree ornaments for our Christmas ones."

Those who want instructions for getting a Jesse Tree ready for next Advent can visit http://www.ncregister.com/info/jesse_tree_craft_swap/ for more information.