Why Christmas Trees Are Not Perfect
They say if you creep into an evergreen forest late at night, you can hear the trees talking. In the whisper of the wind you’ll catch the older pines reassuring the younger ones why they’ll never be perfectly shaped. There will always be a bent branch here, and a gap there…
Long, long ago evergreens were perfect, with each taking pride in branches slopping evenly from crown to symmetrical skirt. This was particularly true in a small kingdom deep in Europe beyond the Carpathian Mountains.
On the first Saturday of Advent, the queen’s woodsmen would search the royal evergreen forest for the most perfect tree. It would then reign in honor in the great castle hall, shimmering with silver balls and golden angles that sparkled in the thousands of candles. While a huge Yule log chuckled and crackled, the royal family and villagers together would dance and sing around the tree in celebration.
Out in the hushed forest every evergreen vied for this honor, each endeavoring to grow its branches and needles to perfection. They strained at the task, fully concentrating on their form and appearance.
One cold night when a bright white moon glittered on the crusty snow as if it were strewn with millions of diamonds, a small rabbit limped into a grove of evergreens, its sides heaving in panic. Beyond the hill rose the yelping of village dogs in the thrill of the hunt. The rabbit’s eyes wild with fright, frantically searched for cover but found nothing among the dark trunks extending upwards into branches artfully lifted from the snow. Faster and faster the cottontail circled as the excited yelping sounded louder and louder. The trees looked annoyed at this interruption of their evening (when growing was best).
Then a small pine shuddered. Of all the young trees, it had the promise of being the finest of the forest. Everything about it, from its deep sea-green color to the delicate curl of its branches, was perfect. But now…its lower branches began to dip, down, down, down to the ground. And in that instant before the slavering dogs broke into the clearing, the rabbit found safety with in the evergreen screen.
In the morning the bunny found it’s burrow, but the little tree could not quite lift it’s branches. Mo matter perhaps a little irregularity in a tree so beautiful would not be noticed.
Then a powerful blizzard came to the land. The villagers slammed shutters closed while birds and animals huddled in nest and dens. A small wren, blown astray, desperately sought sanctuary in the evergreens, but each one she approached clenched its branches tight like a fist. Finally, in exhaustion, she fell into the little pine. The pine’s heart opened and so did its branches and the wren slept within them warm and secure, but the pine had difficulty rearranging its branches. There would be a gap, evermore.
Weeks passed and winter deepened, bringing a gale such as never before experienced in the mountains. It caught a small fawn that had wondered from its mother. Head down, blinded by the snow, the fawn inched into the evergreens, seeking a windbreak, but the trees held their branches open so the wind could whistle through them and avoid dangerous bending and breaking of their limbs.
Again the little pine took pity and tightly closed its branches, forming an impenetrable wall behind which the fawn huddles out of the gale, but alas, when the wind ceased, the small pine have been severely and permanently bent out of shape.
A tear of pine gum oozed from a branch tip. Now it could never hope for the honor it had longed for since it was a seedling. Lost in despair, the little pine did not see the good queen come into the forest. She had come to choose the finest tree herself. As her royal sleigh slowly passed through the forest, her practiced eye scanned the evergreens now preening themselves.
When she saw the little pine, a flush of anger filled her. What right had a tree with such defects to be in her forest? Reminding herself to have a woodsman dispose of it, she drove on, but the stopped and glanced back at it.
As she gazed on it, she noticed the tracks of small animals that had found shelter under it and a downy feather found within its branches where the bird had rested, and as she studied the gaping hole in its side and the wind whipped trunk, understanding filled her heart. “This one,” she said. Her attendants gasped. To the astonishment of the forest, the little pine was borne to the great hall. Everyone who danced and sang around it said it was the finest Christmas tree yet. For in looking at its gnarled and worn branches, many saw the protecting arm of a father, others the comforting bosom of a mother, and some, as did the queen, saw the love of Christ expressed on earth.
So if you walk among evergreens today, you will find, along with rabbits, birds and other happy living things, dropped branches providing cover, gaps offering resting places, forms bent from wrestling winter winds.
For, as with many of us, the trees have learned that the scars suffered for the sake of others make one most beautiful in the eyes of God.
From The Gifts Of Christmas:
The Guidepost Family Christmas Book.