Sunday, December 20, 2009
The Gift of the Tree
An evergreen sapling stood in the crowded wood, a gentle layer of snow caressing its branches. It was much smaller than the tall stately firs that surrounded it and felt well-protected by their presence. It was safe there; it knew no harm would come to it. The small tree gladly welcomed the birds that would rest on its branches and the woodland animals that sought shelter beneath its boughs. It was a good life.
One day, strangers came into the forest. “Who are they?” the young tree queried an elder fir standing nearby.
“They are a family. They come here each year in the midst of winter to choose one of us.”
“Choose one of us? For what?” The tree was puzzled.
“It is Christmas, my child.”
“I will tell you the story, the same way I heard it when I was only a sapling.”
The petite tree could hardly imagine the giant fir being little like itself! It listened intently.
“Many, many years ago, a small child was born in a stable in Bethlehem. It was an amazing night. The angels sang and there was the brightest star ever seen in the night sky. The animals were there and they shared the story with all the other wildlife. This was no ordinary child. This was the Son of God, the God that made us all and this wonderful world we live in. God sent his Son to bring salvation to the world. Each year, the humans commemorate His birthday, the day that tiny baby came into the world. One way they celebrate is by decorating an evergreen tree.”
At that moment, the sound of an ax striking wood resounded through the forest.
“What is that?” the small tree asked, frightened.
“Ahh. The tree has been chosen.”
“Chosen! But they are hurting it! They are killing it!”
“Yes, but it is a great honor to be chosen! To give one’s life to celebrate the One who gave us all life – what could be greater than that? I would have gladly given my life.” The elder tree sighed. “Unfortunately, I am now too old and much too big. It is the younger ones that are chosen – the ones in the prime of their lives.”
The young tree shuddered as the family dragged the chosen one away. “I don’t want to be chosen! I like it here. I don’t want to die!”
“You don’t need to worry about it now! You are still very young.”
The years went by and the small tree had grown into a beautiful fir. Each year, it filled with fear as the family would come. “Please don’t pick me,” it would whisper. Each year, it filled with relief as another was chosen and dragged away.
Another winter came to the forest. This time when the family came, there was a small girl with them. She saw the tree and fell in love. “This one, Daddy!” she cried with enthusiasm as she threw her arms around it. The tree was so scared as the father came over. It could see the gleaming metal of the blade carried over his shoulder.
“Not me. Please, not me,” the tree begged. “Choose another. There are others more beautiful than I. There are others more worthy! There are others who want the job!” But then the tree saw the small girl’s eyes which were so full of excitement and love, and it remembered the words of the wise old tree – to give one’s life for the One who made us all is an honor. The tree took a deep breath. “I can do it,” it thought. “I can be brave.” It felt a sharp pain as the metal crashed powerfully against its trunk. The next thing it heard was the appreciative murmurs of the other trees as it was pulled across the snow. Yes, this year, it was the chosen one.
It was brought to the family’s home. The smiling faces hung ornaments and lights on its boughs. The family sang songs and put wrapped packages underneath its branches. The little girl was lifted up in her father’s strong arms and placed a star on its top. A star – like the one the ancient tree had told him about! The tree had never imagined anything as wonderful as this! It never dreamed it would give such joy! Then, they told the story – the same story of the child’s birth it had been told so many years before.
The tree was filled with warmth and love. Yes, this was an honor. This was its crowning moment. Like all those who give all for the One who made them, the tree was rewarded beyond measure.
by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur