Our Christmas tree in my younger years was often the last one on the tree lot. Dad always waited until the day of Christmas Eve to buy one, because he’d get the best deal. The problem was there undoubtedly would be about three branches on it and most of the needles would fall off by the time he dragged it home. Then it was up to my sister and I to make it look beautiful under his watchful eye. No amount of tinsel could hide the fact that is was a loser as far as trees go.
When my own family was preparing for the Christmas season, one of our traditions was to bundle up the children, load them onto a sled and slide them to the woods and chop one down ourselves. The sweet smell of freshly cut pine was delightful. There would be hot chocolate with a scoop of ice cream on top, once we got home. The tree would last much longer this way and it was a wonderful memory to put in place for our family.
That darling Kodak moment when everything was absolutely perfect, soon turned into the coldest day of the year. Having a husband and dad who continues to have a critical artist’s eye, meant the excursion would become more of a quest than an adventure. Icicles clung to his beard and moustache, yet he pressed on in search of the perfect tree. Little red cheeks on not-so-happy children and a crabby wife wouldn’t deter this man. It was a do or die situation for him. For the rest of us, all we could think of was that hot chocolate waiting for us at home.
The tradition eventually dropped by the wayside when he agreed to an artificial tree. It was nice while it lasted, but I couldn’t picture my sweet husband and myself trudging through the snow to cut the perfect tree. Can you imagine?
The lovely folk tale, “THE TALE OF THREE TREES” by Angela Elwell Hunt, demonstrates how three little trees all had high hopes of what they wanted to be when they grew up. The first looked up at the stars in the sky and desired becoming a treasure chest – holding the most phenomenal treasure the world had ever known. The second tree watched as a tiny stream trickled down a mountain and emptied into the ocean. He decided he would like to become a mighty ship, transporting Kings. The third tree looked at the busy village in the valley below. He dreamed of staying on the mountain and growing into the tallest tree ever. He wanted people to see him and think of God as his limbs reached up to heaven.
The first tree was cut down because it was beautiful and perfect for the woodcutter’s purposes. It would be made into a feeding trough for animals. Eventually it would become a feeding trough for the Messiah – the greatest treasure the world has ever known.
The second tree was cut down because of its strength and crafted into a small fishing boat. When a storm came up and it looked as though the boat would perish, a man stood up, raised his hand over the waters and calmed the seas. The tree realized he was carrying the King of heaven and earth.
The third woodcutter felt that any tree would be suitable for his wood pile, so he cut it down into large beams for future use. Those beams would eventually be carried through the streets of Jerusalem to a mountain that would lead the eyes of the people to heaven and God.
We often dream of what our future holds and have a clear picture of where we will go, but often God has other plans for us. God fashions us throughout our lives. He cuts away the bad spots, trims away the dead branches and finds purpose for us. In the end, He’s leading us through difficult times, to bring our focus back to Him, and reminding us that He is always in control.