“I like Christmas ornaments,” Father Pat Michaels said when he heard the gasp. We had just caught sight of the fully trimmed Christmas tree in the vestibule off the entrance of the rectory at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish. It was mid-September.

Nearly all of the intricate religious ornaments — angels swinging from fluffy clouds, filigreed saints, delicate Nativity scenes and more — were handmade by the longtime pastor of the Mill Valley parish using vintage Polish, German, Czech and Austrian glass. He crafts them from a makeshift workshop, a rectory utility closet stacked precipitously high with boxes of baubles, balls and beads and other tiny, shiny things.

Father Michaels’ master craftsmanship of religious ornaments is a story unto itself. But today, we have come to talk to him about his parish Jesse Tree.

For more than 15 years, the pastor has been deliberate and intentional about the use of the Jesse Tree at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish as an Advent devotion.

Father Michaels told Catholic San Francisco that the ancient custom of the Jesse Tree can draw the faithful into a fuller understanding of the salvation story — one that began, in fact, in the Garden of Eden, not in a manger in Bethlehem.

“You can’t talk about the coming of Jesus, without talking about why he came,” said Father Michaels, who has crafted Jesse Tree ornaments for the parish Jesse tree with as much care and forethought as he creates his glass ornaments. Each is a mobile of combined images or components that he has either hand-drawn or -painted or borrowed with credit from established artists.

He said the placement of ornaments by parishioners on the parish Jesse tree throughout Advent, along with the readings that go with each one, is meant to serve as visual invitation into the fullness of salvation history….

From Catholic San Francisco